Jimmy Butler’s emergence in the second half of last season has made him somewhat of a cult figure among Bulls fans. The third-year wing’s athleticism, defensive prowess, developing offensive game and indefatigable nature won over Tom Thibodeau after being selected with the final pick of the first round in the 2011 NBA Draft, then barely playing in his lockout-shortened rookie campaign.
Questions about a long-term backcourt mate for Derrick Rose have ceased for the time being and it isn't as if Butler is resting on his laurels now that he’s in the spotlight; sources say he’s stepped it up a notch and is in tremendous shape after a summer of hard work.
His numbers might not reflect his improvement, however, as Rose’s return and a healthy group of veteran starters ensure that the Bulls’ scoring will be distributed fairly equally. But if Butler can continue to consistently knock down outside shots, create for himself off the dribble on an occasional basis and thrive in transition with Rose — it’s no stretch to say that the NBA’s most athletic pair of starting guards is arguably in Chicago — just the threat of him having a big scoring performance will be something for opponents to reckon with.
More important, though, is Butler’s rebounding from a perimeter spot and pairing with Luol Deng to form the best defensive wing tandem in the game. If he takes the next step in his development, it will likely result in the former Marquette star, who has started to come into his own as both a player and person, displaying his charismatic personality off the court, entering discussions for a long-term contract extension with the Bulls’ front office.
Make sure to check out all the Bulls previews, each spotlighting this season's expectations for individual players and head coach Tom Thibodeau: