"You’re not going to draw me into that nonsense."
I guess the NBA isn’t used to guys being upfront with their responses. Jimmy Butler has been thrust into a leadership position with the Bulls, and he’s responded rather nicely. After winning Most Improved Player for the last season, Butler has improved yet again, showing that he may, in fact, have a stake in the claim of him being the best shooting guard in the league. Don’t ask him if he thinks he is or not. You won’t draw him into that nonsense. Butler has emerged as the best player on this Bulls team. With Derrick Rose missing three games recently, everybody knew that the backcourt burden would fall onto Butler’s sturdy shoulders. After seemingly calling out coach Fred Hoiberg weeks back, saying he needs to be coached harder, Butler certainly had some walk to walk after talking the talk. In the three games that Rose missed, Butler carried the load for the Bulls on offense and defense, including a 42-point performance against the Toronto Raptors, setting a franchise record for most points in a half  in the process. Over the three games Rose missed, Butler’s averages were astounding, averaging 31 points, five assists, four rebounds, one block and over one steal per contest.
Butler led the Bulls to an undefeated record while Rose missed a few games. Butler didn’t even miss a beat when Rose returned against the Milwaukee Bucks last night. Butler recorded 32 points, tied his career-high with ten assists, sinking all eight of his free throws en route to a 117-106 victory over the Bucks, their eight straight game recording 100 points or more. What Butler has been showing recently is undisputable; not many players can impact a game on both sides of the ball like Butler can. Without him, there is no way the Bulls are even close to their 21-12 record, good enough for second place in the Eastern Conference. That reason is exactly why he should be in the MVP conversation. Should he be considered a front-runner right now? No, but just like Joakim Noah back when he won Defensive Player of the Year, his impact on the Bulls is greater than an impact that nearly any other player has on their team. That’s why Noah got 4th in the MVP voting that year. Sure, his statistics aren’t flashy like Curry’s, Westbrook’s, or anyone else’s. However, his impact on the Bulls isn’t simply measure in statistics and per game averages. It’s the intangibles he has shown, on and off the court, that make him the unquestioned leader on the team.
Leading the Bulls to second the Eastern Conference and proving time & time again recently that he has the clutch factor, along with his improving statistics, should be enough for him to stake a claim in the MVP race. Over the last 5 games, Butler has looked like the best shooting guard in the league on both sides of the ball. He hasn’t been settling for iso-motion plays on offense. He’s reading the defense now and attacking, especially in the pick & roll now. His defense is as good as ever, restricting opponents shooting percentages to some of the lowest in the league and amassing a steal streak that has been unmatched in recent memory. Not only has he proven that he is the unquestioned leader of this team, but he’s also showing that he has a horse in the MVP race.