Jimmy Butler, Trevor Ariza, the salary cap, and the wing role

Jimmy Butler, Trevor Ariza, the salary cap, and the wing role

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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  • Wasn't there a report/rumor of the Bulls being in discussions to trade Jimmy for Harrison Barnes at the deadline? Was anyone in favor of that deal?

  • Great work as always Doug, I would just add that as much as Bulls' nation seems to be all over Ariza's jock, in the 2010, 2011 and 2012 seasons, his TS% each year was under 50%.

    I'm with you in guessing that Butler will be just as good, if not better, than Ariza if put in the same surroundings.

  • In reply to Don Ellis:

    Good points, Don and I agree with you about Jimmy. I think Jimmy has more potential then Ariza, especially if he keeps improving his shot and his handle. I haven't done any analysis, but I believe playing with both Nate and Belli at the same time on the floor helped Jimmy get wide open looks. You get those looks either from a good system or penetration.

    Ariza flourished in the Lakers' triangle especially during their 08-09 championship run. He was getting a lot of wide open looks from the system and from defenders helping off Kobe and Pau. He went into a tailspin starting in Houston but after some refinements to his shot he seems to be flourishing again, in the playoffs.

    Ariza benefits greatly from playing with Wall as an elite penetrating guard, and Beal as a an additional shooter that they can't help off. This is also true for when he's in a lineup with Webster. I think we'll see a marked improvement for Jimmy next season.

  • In reply to JPesos1230:

    Butler certainly didn't improve any aspect of his game this season, especially on offense. Even his defense slipped at least against shooting guards. I have no idea how all his early season injuries affected the entirety of his season, but you almost have to hope that they were a bigger problem than we knew about.

    Why does everybody keep thinking that every guy on our team is always improving. That is simply not the case and probably less so with the guys that had full college careers and are already in their mid twenties.

    While he might have had somewhat better numbers playing with Rose, I think a big part of the problem is that we are playing him at shooting guard and whatever he is, he is definitely not a shooting guard, emphasis on shooting.

    Obtaining Ariza would keep him at shooting guard, which is problematical. Ariza would be a nice short term fix, reduce the need to play Butler 53 minutes a game, but not really the solution to our problems.

    I'd rather see Aflalo come over as our shooting guard, but he is not a free agent so that is a different deal.

  • I'd keep Butler and hope this season was a blip just like Taj's last season. I'm not sure how much the turf toe really bothered him either.

    Ariza will get paid this summer.....

  • The FO has to realize its priorities, the Bulls need creators and scorers above all else. Butler is a defensive role player and I'm fine if he accepts 5-6 million per year deal but if he wants 8 million per year, forget it, he can't score and has limited upside. The Bulls need to be wise with their cap money and go for what is most needed, plus he's not a true shooting guard and a tweener type anyway. This offseason, I would use that cap money for a good wing player since its probably certain the Bulls will draft a point guard given the expiring contracts and injury concerns. They also can't leave Taj and Noah to be run to the ground, so they have to get a rotation worthy third big. Let's see what the magical dual of burt and ernie can pull off this summer. Every muppet eventually has his day in the sun, go get em garpax.

  • In reply to Defense-Rebound13:

    Greg Smith is signed as the 4rth big, and 3rd if boozer is amnestitized and Mirotic doesn't come over. Although I suppose if he doesn't they keep the HPOF for his last season as trade ballast.

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    I agree w/ your one foot in the door and one foot out for Jimmy, but let's not dismiss his value to the team. Team chemistry is as important as ball hog, mega-dollars shot makers.
    Jimmy played w/ turf-toe for most of the season. This could have effected his offensive play, or he could simply be offensively challenged, but he's good for team chemistry.
    Trade him if it's for a prime time player but the Bulls should keep him one more yr, play him less, and add depth at the wing in the draft.

  • First of all, anyone who thinks Jimmy Butler will ever be "just as good, if not better then Ariza" you better get your head out of your ass long enough to see daylight as in reality. No matter what surroundings you put him in, as in Magic and Kareem, Butler will NEVER even sniff the kind of playoff numbers Trevor Ariza has, including clutch volume shots that significantly aided in a world championship. Ariza would have been a heady pick-up for any front office who plans on signing quality offensive players as in PLAYOFF offensive efficient production. In his three playoff runs with significant minutes(35 games) Ariza has averaged 13ppg on .477 field goals and a paltry .469 from three including .476 on 3.7 attempts per game with many clutch shots I might add, in a Laker's championship, and now granted in six games but still .559 on a whopping 5.7 attempts per game. The guy is closer to Robert Horry(obviously no where near in overall rings or game winning buckets but still) then he is to Jimmy Butler

    I've said all along Jimmy Butler, as a starter, is a pretend offensive NBA player. He can't drive and he can't shoot. Period. His numbers suck. Every scouting service appraised him as a role player, not a starter meaning he's not viable offensively. At BEST he's a role player who in limited minutes can defend and hit a few back screen dunks/layups and a mid range jumper or two within the flow of the offense. And that would be fine with me he's obviously a solid guy.

    I wish the Bulls would realize this and either sign him to appropriate money and reduce his role to it's proper scope, or dump him, but instead he's part of the dumb ass dupe fans who are satisfied with just shitty offense "family." Thus he will probably remain. The dupes including resident offensive lunkhead Tom Thibodeau who plays "Jimmy" more minutes then most of the far superior talent to him get in this league, on serious playoff teams anyhow.

    Again, anyone who associates Trevor Ariza's value by his "TS" for god's sake just is anal in the extreme, and just doesn't f-ing get it. Thus the antiquated "bitch and moan" and "all over his jock" outdated and way overly negative pejoratives used only by socially isolated losers frustrated with life because they are too f-ing stupid to get it. Wake up douchebag! Shit.

  • In reply to RoadWarrior:

    Road Warrior, good points, but I'd point to last season's playoffs as a sign that Butler CAN and DID step up in a clutch situation. Aside from guarding LeBron and playing 48 minutes once Deng went down, he hit big 3's and contributed offense.

    Possibly, as someone state above, due to the Robinson/Belineli duo that could create better? Or, perhaps Jimmy had some lingering injuries this year, like the turf toe, due to all the minutes?

    (I'm not bothered totally by the high minutes Thibs plays these guys, but if there is an injury, like Noah down the stretch, give them some games off!)

  • In reply to RoadWarrior:

    "Socially isolated losers frustrated with life?" Wait a minute, I only let my wife call me that!

  • In reply to RoadWarrior:

    I agree with RoadWarrior. Jimmy Butler is basically Ronnie Brewer, and look how cheaply the Bulls signed Brewer.

  • In reply to Vic Nardozza:

    Enough,already with the Downgrading of Butler. He may not be Ariza's equal on Offense----but he is Younger(better potential for growth) AND he has been Overplayed by so many minutes its RIDICULOUS. Back off into some reality!

  • In reply to RoadWarrior:

    While not being quite as bombastic about it, my first reaction was similar to yours. I doubt that Butler is ever as dangerous a weapon on offense and especially in the playoffs.

    The only way that you can "afford" to have Butler on your team is if he is paired with an elite scoring 2 guard and probably a 4 who can score also. I don't know if Taj is enough in that regard, we can only hope an pray that Mirotic is.

  • In reply to BigWay:

    Now that is a little more realistic!

  • Leave it to a complete moron like Road Warrior to throw out personal insults at any who disagrees with him... especially when it's someone who mentions 3 years worth of TS% (which is largely driven by 3pt%) while then mentioning a few games worth of 3pt%.

    Thanks for the laughs, as usual.

  • In reply to Don Ellis:

    Although I must laugh at my grammar and spelling in the preceeding post hahaha

  • In reply to Don Ellis:

    Thanks Don! Two weeks ago you called me a "moron," not a "complete moron" which you just called Road Warrior. I feel much better now.

  • Side note: As to the Bulls drafting a quality wing as somebody mentioned and perhaps some front court depth with Boozer's "impending" departure(even though Mirotic may be coming over this summer/next season) two guys I like in this regard are Jordan Adams - UCLA and Adrien Payne - MSU. Be interested to see Kevin's review of these guys both who obviously have their flaws, but good bets in my view. Realizing Thibs will probably more likely start dating then give either rookie drafted any significant playing time whatsoever.

  • I'm a HUGE Butler fan. Love how he does not back down to anyone. Possibly the best wing defender in the game. I think his offense will be somewhere in between the last two years. His shooting should improve b/c his form is pure and he's a hard worker, but you never know...

    I'd like to see a reasonable extension and I think it will happen - baring a better option like Melo coming here. I doubt any other team would pony up anything close to the MLE for a wing coming off 28% 3-pt shooting.

    Tony Allen gets $5 million. Butler is younger with more offensive upside. So, maybe Butler could command a bit more?

    If no Melo, why not lock up Butler long-term for $5 mil/per after next season, sign Ariza for $5-6 mil, bring over Mirotic for about $5-6 mil, and draft a high upside SG/combo guard like Lavine?

  • In reply to Granby:

    Agree and disagree. Butler was clearly exposed defending some shooting guards this season, most recently Bradley Beal. So maybe he is not an elite wing defender, maybe he can only do it against small forwards.

    Not sure that he is at Tony Allens level against shooting guards, but Butler has more size to go against small forwards. By the way, I've always wanted Allen as a Bull, in fact I wanted him the year that we signed Brewer instead of Brewer, probably could have had him if we wanted to.

  • One other guy ready to step in and contribute:

    PJ Hairston... as long as he checks out mentally. Has the size, shooting and scoring to contribute.

  • Good analysis. BTW, I feel that the depressing series of injuries to Bulls' players has us (or me at least) seeking comedic relief! It's nice to have you joining in providing some of that.

    "Let's see what the magical dual of burt and ernie can pull off this summer. Every muppet eventually has his day in the sun, go get em garpax."

    Of course, for a team to become elite, the FO has to be elite -- or else extremely fortunate, which means more than once every 25 years! Obviously the Bulls' FO hopes to pull off something big this summer. We will see.

  • In reply to rustyw:

    How do you define "elite team?" I think you mean championship team because they already made the ECF. There's only one elite FO in the NBA, IMO, maybe two if you count the Heat (fortunate if you ask me). No other would stand up to scrutiny.

  • Basically, I think that we all thought that he could replace Deng both defensively and offensively. He definitely came up short this year on the offensive end.

    He has next year to prove himself, but either way we should realize by now that you can't have too many starters like this, certainly not both of your wings.

    How much better/different would Butler and Ariza be than Butler and Deng. I wanted to trade Deng and boozer for Ariza and Okafor at last years trade deadline thinking that the Bulls save some money and weren't any worse off on the court. Nevermind that we could have flipped Okafor for Gortat this season.

  • In reply to BigWay:

    I was no where near as high on Butler as a lot of posters going into the season mostly because his offense was so minimal even in his great playoff run. I am still taking Butler on his minimal contract all day over the immensly over rated Deng and his albatross of a contract. Here is to hoping that GarPax actually don't overpay a defensive grinder for once when Jimmy's contract is up.

  • I really like Butler. I think he could be a key player on a championship team. In my opinion, a player like Butler needs to be surrounded by offensive players to be effective. If Rose comes back at All-Star form, they draft a SG (like Harris, fingers crossed), and bring in Mirotic, I think that could be the case. I would wait till after this season to do anything with his contract, because I believe that if Rose can't perform at a high level or can't stay healthy then it is time to rebuild. I would guess that Hinrich will be signed to a one year deal, Butler and Dunleavey will come off the books, Gibson and Noah would be easy to trade; it all seems like an easy time to rebuild the team if Rose can't be a big factor. But if he can, then I'd be all in for giving Butler a market value extension and letting this team go as far as it can.

  • All you were so eager to get rid of Deng--thinking so short sighted that a young two year developing player like Butler could do it so easily. Well, surprise guys--Deng is really good both defensively and offensively--and I'm not saying that he was not irreplaceable--but he was and is a very good hard to replace athlete. Financially, there were and still are problems--but, the Bulls are an extremely rich team--just as rich as the Brooklyn owner. Look at where his team is compared to our Bulls. The Owner of the Bulls has to spend some of that cash if he is truly committed in giving Chicago Fans a championship. Where is the commitment we were told that management made to us--Where?

  • In reply to penwit1:

    They need to show something this off season, no question about it. Up until now, they've been dealing with a Rose injury for 3 years now, what kind of spending would have made a difference? Only thing I can think of was spending on Asik, but a backup defensive center is pretty far down the list of this team's needs, especially at 15 per year.

  • In reply to penwit1:

    I don't think that the Bulls would have been one iota better with Deng and no Butler than they were with Butler and no Deng. If anything, the evidence suggests that they were somewhat better under the second scenario.

    The only way losing Deng hurt us was in loss of depth, we clearly needed another quality wing, Ariza at $7.5 million would have been vastly superior than Deng at $14+ million.

    Again, we didn't miss Deng specifically, we just needed another body.

  • By the way did anyone notice that Roy Hibbert put up another boozer last night, 0 points, 0 rebounds, O.K. even boozer can't be that bad.

    Going into last night he was the only all star in history to do that even once in the same season that he was an all star, now he's done it three times. Personally, I'm thrilled, as I think Hibbert got way too cocky(along with the rest of the Pacers) after last seasons series against the Heat. I found myself rooting hard for the Wiz last night, I hope that they sweep the Pacers.

  • In reply to BigWay:

    It's bizarre that a guy who was being talked up as the DPOY and an all-NBA player has sunk so low. I wonder if we'll ever find out exactly what's behind it.

    The Pacers are going to have to trade him in the off season surely, if he's just in a funk over something that happened on the team could be a great buy low chance for somebody (do the Nets swap him for whatever is left of Lopez' foot?)

  • I think Butler, like Deng, is a victim of coaches learning how to play basketball on a court that has a three point line. I say learning - as in ongoing - because I still don't think teams shoot nearly enough threes to be optimal.

    The way things are going anyone who can't shoot threes needs to be either a hell of a defensive big, or have an elite slashing game. Butler is clearly neither of those, so he's a bit part player.

    Chris Paul just hit 8 threes in a playoff game. Chris Paul, you think the opposing defense isn't trying to stop that guy? But I'm not sure the old wisdom of playoff defense keying in on your team and being able to better stop your plays applies to the three. The dimensions of the court are such that it's nearly impossible to not give up threes to teams that have shooters unless you play zero help defense (which has other rather obvious problems).

    If Jimmy Butler can get his three point percentage up to the 35-36 mark - while shooting the ball every time without hesitation - then he has real value as a player. If not, then he's a bench guy who you can maybe start if you have shooting from other spots and are worried about an opposing wing.

    As for Ariza, has he learnt to shoot or did he just have a good year? His three point shooting is way over his career for both volume and accuracy - he's very likely to regress to the mean and never shoot close to 40% from three again. Paying him as a defensive stopper who can shoot the three acceptably is fine, but anyone who pays him like he's a marksman is going to be disappointed I suspect.

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    I was so touched by Trevor's little brother story, I found his girlfriend here http://sportcelebritywag.com/baseball/bree-anderson-nba-player-trevor-arizas-girlfriend/ Im glad he has a loving family he deserves it

  • Of course aside from needing offensive talent as the draft approaches, I just wonder if Boozer's amnesty happens, what that would mean to a possible restructuring of this team? Despite the conservative nature of Gar/Pax, with a rising salary cap in conjunction with a new TV deal, will the Bulls have room for Mirotic at more then the MLE if that's what it takes? Combined with Rose, Taj, and Noah's salalry, cap holds, rookie contract(s) etc.?

    If you do trade one of Taj or Noah is it assumed it's Taj as many posters seem to highly value Joakim as basically indispensable? Could a trade along with our pick moves us up in the top ten of this draft which while deep is not perhaps star laden? Will a FA take it on faith Rose will return, and possibly come here at a reasonable price for a near ring team if Mirotic pans out? Paul Pierce may be a geez, but his actual numbers if you look at silly things like field goal percentage and three point shooting are not too bad really.

    You add a solid vet(doesn't have to be Pierce at 36), and Mirotic hits as a good offensive PF, one draft pick hits as a decent wing 12ppg and up first year at 45% and up. And Rose comes back healthy and plays reasonably well?

    Within a short time the opportunity exists for this team to be pretty good. If the right moves are made and throw in some good luck of course. Gar/Pax come on give us a heart attack and make something happen. Please.

  • I continue to believe that Jimmy Butler, on a true contending team, is a backup. Period.

    The Bulls need serious upgrades at the starting SG, starting SF, and starting PG positions.

    If Rose returns healthy that's 1 out of 3. Bulls are a long way from being a true contender and have their work cut out for them this off-season. I do expect Bulls FO to be very active so we just have to wait and see.

  • If Noah and Butler are 2 of your starting 5 and Taj is a 3rd, that really puts a lot of pressure on the other 2 starters and bench to score big points.

  • I cannot believe what you guys are talking about here. You want to get rid of this guy and that guy--what about the FO--I guess you all think that for the last 10 years and more that they have done a great job. I bet you think that they are the ultimate FO and let's not even consider the faults of Thibs. I guess they are all perfect and the players are all bad. Have any of you read what you have written.
    I see so many good players drafted once by the Bulls on other teams--look at Crawford now the 6th man of the year again. Tyson Chandler even has a championship ring-- and you all here are still wearing blinders and cannot see that our problem here is somewhat beyond the players who are not the decision makers. Maybe this is what happens to a team when the owner states that "management makes championship" as we watch all the other front office management take turns each year buying championship rings in other cities.

  • In reply to penwit1:

    We are just realistic in believing that Reinsdorf won't fire GarPax. Of course most of us would like to see them gone, but why waste the energy on something that is not going to happen. So all we can hope for is that they can pull the trigger on proper moves to make this team a real contender. I don't believe they are capable, but I love basketball too much to give up all hope.

  • In reply to penwit1:

    "as we watch all the other front office management take turns each year buying championship rings in other cities" is a gross exaggeration. If you really think that, no wonder you're so angry. Pull your head out of your ass. Since the Bulls last championship, only six franchises have won titles. Sure, we all wish the Bulls were one of them but that's no reason to declare the FO a failure and call for firings. It says more about the NBA if you ask me.

  • We're missing the fact that Jimmy Butler is easily the most valuable player on the team, possibly the NBA. Who else on a rookie contract is playing starting SG, backup SG, AND backup SF? Even Deng didn't give you that.

    Ok, I'm joking. But seriously, I think Butler begins to show his best game again when he is limited to playing one out of those 3 positions (or even two but that would require finding another starting 2 guard and, haha, how's that gone the last 15 years?). Everybody knows the Bulls need help at the wings. No Bull needs more help than Jimmy.

  • So it is realistic to take out all of our dissapointment on Butler--while all of you thought so extremely high of him--so high in fact that you all considered he could easily replace Deng--cause Deng wasn't so good anyway, right? Have any of you ever played professional ball for 53 minutes in a game--in any sport--even as a developing player in any league? Have you ever ran back and forth on a pro level court game in a 82 game season--only after playing pro-ball for only 2 years, after playing college ball for a 30 game year. Butler is only human and so was Deng--and yet every none of you guys and neither did their coach consider that even horses get tired. That's why I'm even more realistic--considering that this coach is not a championship caliber guy--and maybe just one that thinks he's playing a live basketball video game with pieces that never tire--and with no consideration that a post season is also a requirement..

  • In reply to penwit1:

    IMO, Thibs is a life-long assistant coach masquerading as a head coach. Thibs is good at the things assistant coaches do and poor at the things head coaches do (do we need to list them?). Thibs is also stubborn to a fault and is not changing for anyone.

    So I agree Thibs is not a championship caliber coach, in spite of it being politically incorrect to say so.

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