The Bulls need an upgrade on the wing. Heading into this season, many Bulls fans felt we had it. He was going to be the difference between this season and 2010/11 right up until the point that Derrick Rose tore his meniscus proving that the lack of Rose was once again the difference. His name is Jimmy Butler, and this season, he fell short.
Going into the season there was plenty of reason for hope. Butler displayed ferocious defense, got to the foul line, and knocked down the three point shot. That's all we needed. We just needed him to do it with more volume as a starter. Sure, he wasn't a star on offense, but it seemed unlikely we'd find that.
Butler was slated to be as good as you could possibly expect at his position. However, this season the minutes came, but his numbers and efficiency plummeted.
FG% dipped from 46.7% to 39.7%. 3pt% dipped from 38.1% to 28.3%. Jimmy Butler no longer gave us efficient scoring. The question now becomes whether or not he can do it again. One free agency plan is to chase Trevor Ariza.
Ariza's a Jimmy Butler type. Athletic, long, terrific defender. He's an unrestricted free agent and hit 40% of his three point shots last season. Now it doesn't need to be a one for one. The Bulls could get Ariza and play Butler/Ariza together.
However, given a choice, I think I'm putting my money on Jimmy Butler instead. Ariza's previous three point percentage high water mark was 36.4% in the previous season. The fact that it's so close means he has likely legitimately improved his shot some, however, he's playing on a team where he's the third perimeter option and shoots mostly corner threes.
Jimmy Butler's production looked a lot better under those circumstances too. While I don't think Luol Deng was a great offensive player, he certainly pushed Butler down a peg on the opponent's defend them at all costs chart, and Jimmy's been shooting fewer corner threes this season.
I'm curious to see how Ariza's production would translate playing with the cast Chicago presently has where open corner threes just don't happen. It very well might be the fact that a healthy Rose is all Jimmy Butler needs to find his groove again and become the player he was two campaigns ago in smaller minutes.
That said, the Bulls shouldn't flinch at moving Butler. While he's a solid defensive guard who has some offensive potential, he's likely going to be considerably less attractive after he signs a new deal at five to seven million per season. We've seen guys like Ronnie Brewer, Tony Allen and Thabo Sefolosha sign relatively cheap free agent deals.
Getting your great defensive wing is important, but it typically isn't costly. In this league you pay for offense, and unless Jimmy Butler proves that he can deliver considerably more offense than he has, then the Bulls shouldn't be looking at him as a guy worth more than the MLE. However, free agency may dictate a different story.
Chicago walks a delicate balance in that regard. Keeping Butler makes sense to load up the team for this season because his cheap contract will be one that Chicago won't likely replace with a similar caliber player given cap room.
However, this is also the last chance for Chicago to get something back for him [he won't have any real value at the deadline] or be forced to decide whether or not it's likely worth overpaying him as a free agent if some other team decides to throw Butler some serious cash.
The solution? The Bulls shouldn't be looking to move Butler. They just shouldn't be opposed to it if a good deal comes along. If he's the difference between getting Melo or some other star player they're interested in then let me help pack Jimmy Butler's bags.
Butler can and will help the Bulls next season if he's on the roster, but he's also a guy with considerable albatross potential on his next contract if the Bulls get into a bidding war.
Maybe that won't happen. Maybe Butler will sign a reasonable deal, maybe even this off-season. Maybe he'll improve in such a way that he'll be worth a big deal. Maybe my concerns will become completely unwarranted. However, Jimmy Butler's aren't that hard to find. Chicago can uncover another defensive gem somewhere else if they need one.
You need offense and defense, but you pay for offense, can Jimmy Butler find some?
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