Who didn't love the Jimmy Butler story when they heard it after draft night? It's hard not to love a hard working overachiever who's been through tough times in life but came out on top and remains humbled from where he's been. However, there's a ton of great guys in this world, and it doesn't mean I want them on my basketball team.
With Butler, the story was great, but was he more than a great story? Was he good enough? It wasn't a question I'd expect to answer this season. He'd have almost no training camp, a season nearly devoid of practice time, and six perimeter players ahead of him in the rotation. Yet, he may have answered it already.
He came into the Bulls saying he wanted to stick LeBron James. He wanted to stick Dwyane Wade. He sounded like a guy looking to make the all defensive team rather than win a scoring title. He knew where his strengths were before stepping onto the court. He knows his role and puts 100% of his energy into doing it the best he can. He has the perfect mentality for his skill set, and a skill set which many players could have but refuse to develop despite its value.
In his limited minutes, he's already shown plenty of signs that he's the real deal. He's shut down Carmelo Anthony twice. He stopped LeBron on three straight possessions while LeBron called for the ball to take advantage of the match up. Sure, those guys will score on him plenty in his career, but he's gone through trial by fire against the best and come out of it playing more like a defensive MVP candidate than an end of the draft rookie. [obviously he doesn't have the minutes or body of work to contend for an award before anyone gets carried away]
Even at this early stage of his development, it's clear he can defend, has the right attitude, and will stick in the NBA. He's the perimeter version of Taj Gibson. He came into the league a little older than the typical player, without a superstar ceiling, without much offensive game, but with a great attitude and defensive presence.
The Bulls did it again. They took a pick in an area where more than half the guys selected aren't out of the league or out of the rotation before the end of their rookie contract and grabbed themselves a player who can step up and contribute for a team trying to win a championship. He can play defense, even against the best. He plays with intensity and effort, and Chicago won't think twice about putting him on the floor in a big moment.
It's not an easy thing to do, not when you have no entitlement minutes, not with this much depth on the team, and not when you're trying to win a championship this year rather than "develop" players. Credit the scouts and credit Gar, with the exception of Tyrus Thomas over LaMarcus Aldridge, this team has been dynamite in the draft [even James Johnson looks like a solid defensive role player while getting more burn in Toronto].
With tough financial decisions to make in the off-season and three perimeter players on non guaranteed contracts, Butler's role looks to get a whole lot bigger next season. Despite limited minutes, I already feel comfortable he can manage it.