Many consider him to be the front-runner for the Most Improved Player award. Many consider him to be going through a breakout year in a contract year. Many are now considering him to be the best two-way shooting guard in the Eastern Conference. One thing is for sure, though: Jimmy Butler is turning heads throughout the league. Playing at an All-Star level this season, Butler has opened eyes throughout the league. Motivated to prove himself to be more than just an elite defender, Butler wanted to make sure that he was going to be on the opposing teams' scouting reports. The rise of Jimmy Butler this season has been fun to watch, and the league has definitely taken notice, naming Butler the Eastern Conference Player of the Month for November. Butler has been making a name for himself, abusing whoever is matched up against him. Butler is leading the Bulls in scoring (21.6 points per game) and steals (1.5 per game), proving that he is a legitimate two-way threat. On a team with guys like Derrick Rose, Pau Gasol & Joakim Noah, the emergence of Butler has been huge for the Bulls as opponents now have to gameplan for those four guys each and every night. The emergence of Butler also brings up an interesting question: Where does Butler rank among shooting guards? To find the answer to that question, let's take a look at statistics that compare him to the rest of the shooting guards in the NBA.
- 1st in minutes per game - 39.7
- 1st in offensive rebounds per game - 1.9
- 3rd in points per game - 21.6 (trails Kobe Bryant and James Harden)
- 3rd in free throw attempts per game (trails Harden and Bryant)
- 4th in field goal percentage - 49.0% (trails Dwyane Wade, Kyle Korver & Courtney Lee)
- 4th in rebounds per game - 5.6 (trails Lance Stephenson, Harden & Giannis Antetokounmpo)
- 6th in steals per game - 1.47 (trails Tony Allen, Harden, Corey Brewer, Tony Wroten, and Monta Ellis)
In addition to those statistics, Jimmy Butler averages less turnovers per game than Harden, Bryant, Wade, Stephenson, Ellis, Klay Thompson, Bradley Beal, and DeMar DeRozan. The reason why that is so impressive is because Butler plays more minutes each game than any of those players. It's not like Butler doesn't have the ball in his hands, either. Butler has been a playmaker this year, and Thibodeau has trusted Butler with the ball in his hands more and more as each game passes. When Butler is posting his defender up, he's always two steps ahead of the defense. If they won't double him, Butler will either shoot over his defender or simply get past him for a layup. If they double him, Butler already knows who will be open and will hit them for the open jumper (or layup/dunk if the guy is cutting). Butler's ascent on the list of top shooting guards in the NBA has been a result of Butler's non-stop work in the offseason. During the past offseason, Butler spent most of the summer working on improving his jumper and speed on the offensive end, and it's paid dividends for Butler and the Bulls. If Butler can improve his three-point field goal percentage (sitting at just 28% right now), he will really give opposing defenses fits. Based off of those statistics alone, it'd be hard to argue against saying Jimmy Butler is a top-5 shooting guard in the NBA. In fact, I'd rank Butler as the 4th best shooting guard in the NBA, trailing Bryant, Harden and Wade with Thompson trailing him.