WARR contributor Josh Hicks offers his thoughts on the Chicago Bulls and the NBA
This past Monday, Chicago Bulls all-star Jimmy Butler scored 52 points against the Charlotte Hornets, 32 of which came in the second half. At no point currently can it be argued that Butler is the true leader of the Bulls, but before gaining his elite status, many people had a lot of questions upon his entrance in the league.
Drafted 30th overall by the Bulls in 2011, not many people knew what type of player Butler would turn out to be, he was an average role player and a good perimeter defender coming out of a Marquette program where he wasn’t a clear-cut star, no one really imagined he would turn out to be one of the best two-way players in the NBA.
As he started out in the league, Butler learned under the leadership of former coach Tom Thibodeau and the mentoring of former teammate Luol Deng. Butler understood the importance of defense and took pride in defending the opponents’ best players, but when it came to offense, he learned that on his own and has developed a package that now seems un-guardable.
In 2011, Butler averaged ten points a game, and has increased his scoring average dramatically over his five-year career, including his breakout year during the 2014-2015 season where his scoring jumped from 13 to 20 points a game. It was that year where he won the NBA’s Most Improved Player Award.
Winning the award started the conversation of whether he can continue to grow as a player and can take the reigns of being the main leader on the team. With trust between Bulls management and former hometown hero Derrick Rose disintegrating quickly, Butler was next up to get his shot. So far, he has not disappointed.
Butler has stepped up since accepting the calling to be the face of the franchise, but his leadership was young and inexperienced, something that the Bulls needed to bring in with a young head coach in Fred Hoiberg. With the Bulls bringing in superstar Dwyane Wade, Butler has maintained his role as a student of Wade in spit of his obvious responsibilities as a leader. Wade said himself that Butler is a proven player that would take the league by storm.
“For me, (Butler) is just adding a little extra recipe to what he already has,” Wade told Mike McGraw of the Daily Herald earlier this season. “I’m a chef, he’s a cook. Trying to make him a chef. He’s having an unbelievable season. What he’s doing now, this is not a facade. This is not luck. This is the way he can play night in and night out.”
This season Butler is averaging 24 points a game and making noise to add another potential all-star selection to his already two-time all-star resume, his leadership skills have grown within the locker room and in prime-time settings.
Butler’s recent 52-point performance is only the beginning of the journey that Butler has already taken to come from an average player from Marquette to one of the most improving and elite two-way complete players in the league. Although the Bulls are struggling, they at least have solved their player leadership issues.
Joshua M. Hicks is a sports writer and broadcaster and a recent graduate of Roosevelt University, follow him on Twitter @jhicks042