Coming in to this season, Bulls fans were down right excited about Jimmy Butler. His improvement over Rip Hamilton, Keith Bogans, and Ronnie Brewer was one of the primary reasons fans felt the Bulls could contend for the title.
He capped off last season as a guy who looked like he was bringing NBA 1st team caliber defense while getting to the free throw line plenty, shooting 46.7% from the field, and 38.1% from the three point line.
Putting up such numbers in his second year started Paul George dreams in our heads. How much better will Jimmy Butler get?! A funny thing happened between the end of last year and Jimmy Butler's rise to stardom this year. He got a whole lot worse.
At one point, Bulls fans (and likely the front office) were wondering how we might afford Jimmy Butler going forward. In fact, much of the early clamor about trading Luol Deng was under the thought process that the Bulls would need to extend the younger Butler. He would certainly surpass Deng as a player while the players age.
The case was made that he was better than Deng already. He certainly looked more athletic and had more defensive upside. He just needed to prove out his volume shooting.
Well that was then and this is now.
Jimmy Butler's mired in a miserable shooting slump. His shooting percentage his dipped to 37.2%, his three point percentage down to 27.8%. A good chunk of the first number is related to the second. Jimmy's shooting a much higher volume of threes at a much lower percentage. However, his two point percentage his still dropped from 48.9% to 42.4% which shows the decline is all around.
Now the Bulls are left with the thought of what to do with Jimmy Butler. When his third season comes to a close, Butler will be eligible for an extension. Should the Bulls look to extend early and buy low or are they simply trying to catch a falling knife? Was Jimmy Butler's second season productivity a function of playing a smaller role and a lucky year or is this season a function of a turf toe injury that's never gotten better?
Butler hasn't been the same since the injury.
|Pre Turf Toe||43.5%||38.5%||46.5%||52.2%|
|Post Turf Toe||35.5%||24.7%||41.3%||43.0%|
It's a small sample size, and it's also biased because his pre turf toe games came with Derrick Rose rather than without him. However, his previous numbers in 2012/13 were all without Rose. Moreover, I also don't believe Rose was playing at a level that actually improved Butler's play this season either.
Rose was still struggling for much of the time he was back and has never been a PG with tremendous vision anyway.
Turf toe is one of those injuries that doesn't really go away until you have a chance to really rest it. Tom Thibodeau certainly isn't resting Jimmy Butler any. Butler's playing 36 minutes a night on the season with the number going up since the Deng trade and Rose's injury.
The numbers show that prior to the turf toe injury, Butler was on a similar path to the offensive numbers he put up the previous season [though doing it on higher volume]. His three point percentage was matching last year's rate, his free throw rate was up, and his two point percentage was dipped just a shade.
Since the injury? His numbers have fallen off the board in all facets. His shooting is clearly much worse, but he's also not getting to the foul line at the same rate either. Maybe it's simply a slump. Maybe his turf toe isn't a problem at all, and Butler has simply fallen off the map in terms of offensive effectiveness.
It's more one thing Bulls management will have to judge.
Buy low or buy no?
Given Butler's background, he strikes me as the type of guy who says yes to a reasonable extension. The question is what's reasonable? For 46.7% from the field, 38.1% from the three point line Jimmy Butler, reasonable might have pushed up near 10 million per year. A defender who can knock down the three shoot a good percentage, and draw fouls? Very solid player.
For the Jimmy Butler who plays defense but has Ronnie Brewer like offense, well reasonable is probably in the three million dollar range. He's still a valuable role player even without the offense, but this league pays for quality offense while Ronnie Brewer's bouncing around the NBA on minimum contracts and Thabo Sefolosha/Tony Allen are making sub MLE money.
Butler's clearly not going to sign an extension in the three million dollar range this off-season. He's better off trying to rebuild his value. However, an extension in the six million dollar range? Four years 20-24 million?
Maybe Butler rebuilds his value and is worth 4/40, but if not, the difference between 24 million and getting a 4/12 deal is likely the difference between being easily set for life if you're not an idiot and having to be far more cautious with your money.
Besides the Bulls deciding if they want to take the chance on Jimmy early, Jimmy will decide if he wants to double down on his own ability or whether he wants to lock in now.
I'm holding off on Butler
Role playing defensive wings under a super-genius coach don't seem like a hot commodity to me. My guess is that Tom Thibodeau can turn most athletic, hard working players into defensive power houses on the perimeter. My second guess is that the Bulls can find another guy who fits that criteria in the draft pretty easily.
Butler's numbers this year point to turf toe potentially being a problem, but it's also worth noting that Butler wasn't a great scorer in college. He was never a guy who looked like a great scorer in the NBA either. He doesn't have the handles to really create his own shot and likely won't develop them.
At best, you're hoping he can really improve the accuracy of his three point shot, but why expect that to happen given what we've seen so far? His quality percentages have been on lower volume and most of his makes are open looks from the corner.
I love Jimmy Butler, but there's no reason to lock in on him. He's a great guy, heart warming back story, hard worker, fun to watch, but ultimately, in the NBA, I think he's just a role player that the Bulls can find a replacement for in most drafts with a mid first round pick.