To pick up on what is the recurring thread this season (the Bulls lack of consistent scoring), I'd like to give credit to the Bulls' best offensive player, Jimmy Butler. Yes, you heard me. So far this season, Jimmy is the Bulls' leader in True Shooting % (61.5), Effective Field Goal % (53.3, the only Bulls player above 50%), Turnover % (7.3), Points Per 100 Possessions (132!), and Win Shares per 48 minutes (.194), all while having the lowest Usage Rate (12.6%) on the entire team. He's also third on the team in total offensive Win Shares (0.8), right behind Luol Deng at 0.9 and Joakim Noah at 1.2.
What does this mean? Well, despite his reputation as an active defender and all-around hustle guy, Jimmy has proven to be the most efficient scorer on the team, and by a large margin. His jump-shooting numbers are pedestrian at best, but it's around the rim where he shines, with an eFG% of 69.6 according to 82games. While I would hardly recommend that the offense focus on Butler, his high efficiency surely at least warrants not only a more consistent role, but a few more shots a game (surely more than Kirk Hinrich, who, despite shooting well this week, remains one of the worst offensive players in the NBA). One of the skills he showed in Summer League was his propensity for getting to the line, which has most definitely carried over to the regular season, where he's drawing a foul at an astounding 21.5% rate. For comparison, Kevin Durant draws fouls 17.5% of the time.
Perhaps most encouragingly has been his defensive production at the shooting guard position, where he's seen roughly half his minutes, and is holding his opponents to a 9.8 PER per 48 minutes. Essentially, Jimmy is adapting to wherever Thibs decides to play him, and is doing it at a rate that far outstrips everyone else on the team to this point. Here's hoping he keeps it going. This team is desperate for offensive production, and getting as much production as possible from the easiest shot in basketball is certainly a way to ameliorate this.
Key Matchup: Jimmy Butler vs. J.R. Smith
The Knicks have exploded to their hot start this season with a barrage of easy three pointers, feasting on lesser scoring teams by simply blowing them out of the water, going 7-0 against teams considered to be "poor" offensively. J.R. Smith has been the catalyst of a great many of these runs, and if Carmelo Anthony can't go (the latest reports have him as a game-time decision), the Knicks will certainly look to Smith to create some of these shots in the doldrums of the second and third quarters. Smith has been a part of 3 of the Knicks' 4 best five-man units, and is extremely capable of scoring torrentially. If Jimmy Butler can stay with him, or better yet attack him at the rim and get him in foul trouble, it will force the Knicks to look somewhere else for a scoring punch. More importantly, it will allow Luol Deng to focus his defensive efforts elsewhere and keep him fresh. The Bulls' starters played heavy minutes last night, so the more minutes Jimmy can steal will only help their chances of surviving the Knicks.
Probable Starting Fives
PF Carlos Boozer
SF Luol Deng
SG Marco Belinelli
PG Kirk Hinrich
C Tyson Chandler
PF Kurt Thomas (possibly Carmelo Anthony)
SF Ronnie Brewer
SG Jason Kidd
PG Raymond Felton
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