The Miracle Named Jimmy Butler

Jimmy Butler was not supposed to have made it this far. Getting through college, including his tenure with the Chicago Bulls and now the Wolves, was not simple. But he is seen as a franchise transforming player. He’s avoided all obstacles and challenges in his path, which would knock any normal human to the ground. However, Jimmy Butler has fought through and even thrived in the middle of struggle in order to make it to where he is today.

This summer the Chicago Bulls dealt away Jimmy Butler to the Minnesota Timberwolves for a series of assets, including Zach Lavine, Kris Dunn and the swapping of draft picks. The trade underlined the beginning of a rebuild process in Chicago, and the exact opposite for the Timberwolves. The Wolves are looking to challenge for one of the top seeds in the West.

Vegas has the Timberwolves as 4th best in the Western Conference this season, a very respectable improvement from last season, should this play out. It is evident, however, that much of this leap can be attributed to the arrival of the kid hailing from Tomball, Texas.

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Jimmy Butler has been burdened by difficulties ever since he was born . His father abandoned the family when Butler was an infant. His mother threw him out of the house at the age of 13, telling him that she didn’t “like the look of (him)”. Growing up on the streets was never easy. Butler would jump from friend’s house to friend’s house. Despite this adversity, Butler maintained a strong relationship with both his mother and father. “I don’t hold grudges”, he once told reporters when questioned about the reason for his ongoing relationship with his parents. His past he put aside.

Off the court, Butler has consistently shown true class, not only as a basketball player, but as a man. He promotes the NBA brand in a positive manner. When asked about his childhood in an interview with ESPN, Butler told reporters to not “write it in a way that makes people feel sorry for me”, because  “there’s nothing to feel sorry about”. He credits those adversities for making him the player he is today.

In high school, Butler stumbled into a friendship with Jordan Leslie, a freshman. Over time, the two became inseparable and Butler ultimately ended up living with Leslie for the rest of his senior year. Butler initially attended Tyler Junior College, but was given a scholarship to Marquette before his sophomore year. He was at Marquette the next three years, averaging 15.7 points in his senior year, before being drafted by the Bulls with the 30th pick in 2011.

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Coming into the NBA, Butler had very few expectations placed upon his shoulders. He wasn’t expected to transform into a starter, let alone a franchise player. His rookie season went along quietly as he put up 2.6 points and 1.3 rebounds a game. His defense was solid, though his offense was far from elite. An inconsistent jumper was so flat one of his teammates likened it to a ‘dart’. It was a large source of his problems on offense.

Butler made his way into the Bulls starting rotation the following season, 2012-13. Over the course of the next two years, Butler made every intention to improve the offensive side of his game. The impact of this was seen in his 2014-15 season. Averaging 20 points and carrying the Bulls to the  semi-finals, he appeared in his first All-Star game, and sealed the Most Improved Player award during the the end of the season.

During that summer, Butler signed a lucrative 5-year, $95 million contract. Butler continued his form into the 2015-16 season, scoring a career-high 53 points in a game against the Philadelphia 76ers. He averaged 21 points that season.  2017 culminated in an All-NBA nod for Butler, and was followed by his trade to the Timberwolves.

With the Wolves, Butler looks to lead a young team for the first time in his career. There is no doubt that the Timberwolves will be underdogs in the stacked Western Conference, though Butler has embraced this role all his life.

Out of the 18 players to average over 23 points a game last season, the Timberwolves now possess three in Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins and Butler. Having a top-10 offense in the league shouldn’t be a problem for the Wolves – their struggle lies on the defensive end. However, swapping Zach Lavine for Jimmy Butler was critical in solving this issue. The three-time All-Defensive player will help organize and lock in the defensive unit for the team.

A major problem for the Wolves last season occurred when Tom Thibodeau would allow Wiggins to don the role of a point forward and bring the ball up. Following a crowded pick-and roll, they would end up in tight shot-clock situations far too often, leading to rushed or contested jumpshots. Wiggins did, however, show glimpses of his ability to shine in this role. Having Butler alongside him will allow him to learn from one of the best in the business, given that Butler was regularly placed in a similar scenario with the Bulls. Should Wiggins be able to thrive in the role of a secondary ball handler, the Timberwolves’ wing offense will be close to unstoppable.

Jimmy Butler’s arrival does, however, deepen a prevalent issue in their offense, a lack of floor spacing. The Timberwolves are considered to be one of the worst three-point shooting teams in the league, given that not a single one of their players has shot above 38% from behind the arc since the 2009-10 season. Butler’s predecessor, Lavine, was the closest the Timberwolves had to a shooter . Losing him could heighten this problem.

Expect to see Jimmy Butler improve on his relatively weak three-point rate this year though. He’s the last person you’d expect to ever give up on what appears to be a hopeless situation, given all the adversities he’s overcome. Butler will be looking to shut down all the questions raised regarding the Timberwolves. If there’s anyone who can defy the odds and the critics, its the new man in town. It is Jimmy Butler.

 

photo via llananba