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Bulls are Butler’s team, but how much changed?

By: Chris Jeter

The 2016-17 Bulls will no doubt be Jimmy Butler's team as the team got rid of Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah, but how effective can he be facing packed-in defenses with new additions Dwayne Wade and Rajon Rondo both being slashers and not floor spacers?

The 2016-17 Bulls will no doubt be Jimmy Butler’s team as the team got rid of Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah, but how effective can he be facing packed-in defenses with new additions Dwayne Wade and Rajon Rondo both being slashers and not floor spacers?

Swingman Jimmy Butler has come a long way over the last couple years playing for the Chicago Bulls. The former defensive specialist evolved into perennial All-Star over the last two seasons. In his first three seasons in Chicago, Butler averaged 8.9 points per game, a .425/.309/.781 shooting line, and 14.2 player efficiency rating (PER, 15 is league average).

The last two years, Butler has averaged 19.5 ppg with a 21.3 PER. Butler’s improved play earned him two All-Star selections and the 2014-15 Most Improved Player award. With a revamped but similar lineup in the Windy City, the Bulls will need Bulter more than ever to return to the playoffs.

Butler attempted to assert himself as the locker room leader last season to mixed results. However, Butler’s two main obstacles, Joakim Noah and Derrick Rose, are now wearing New York Knicks jerseys this year. Noah signed a four year, $72 million contract over the summer. The Bulls traded Rose to the Knicks for Robin Lopez, Jose Calderon (later traded to the Lakers), and Jerian Grant. With the Bulls biggest personalities now in the Big Apple, Butler appears to be the man Gar Forman and John Paxon will build around.

The duo’s first attempt was head scratching. Theoretically, the Bulls should have went after more outside shooters to space the floor and give Butler room to drive to the basket and get to the foul line. Instead Chicago signed guards Rajon Rondo and Chicago native Dwyane Wade to respective two year pacts. Wade is a future Hall of Famer, but took only 44 threes last year, making only 16 percent. Wade does most of his damage in the pose and in the midrange game. Rondo improved his three point game in Sacramento last season (a career high 36 percent) and will make dazzling passes. On the other hand, Rondo is not a floor spacer and needs the ball in his hands to be at his best. The problem is, Butler needs the same space on the floor Rondo and Wade do to be successful. Many teams will keep their defenders near the paint as a result and will dare the Bulls to shoot from the outside.

Chemistry wise, the Bulls might be in the same predicament as last year. Although Wade told the media the Bulls were “Jimmy Butler’s team” in July, his opinion as a veteran and legend could determine if the rest of the locker room follows Bulter or him. It is reasonable to think Wade and Butler can coexist, Wade was able to do so in Miami with LeBron James.

Rondo is a bit more unpredictable. His time in Sacramento is a wash, thriving in that toxic organization is not easy for anybody. However, Rondo has not always been the best locker room guy. Just a couple of years ago, the Dallas Mavericks sent Rondo home under the guise of injury just so he would not be around the team during the playoffs. The ingredients are there for turmoil in the Chicago locker room.

The Bulls front office basically handed head coach Fred Hoiberg the same ill fitting parts he had last year. This is the same mess that caused the Bulls to finish 23rd in the NBA in points per 100 possessions. The Bulls only had the 15th quickest pace in the association despite implementing a more uptempo offense under Hoiberg.

The Bulls certainly do not look like a title contender. They do not have nearly enough three point shooting to hang with LeBron James and the Cavs. It will take a while for them to figure out their identity on both sides of the ball. The good news for Chicago is that they play in the Eastern Conference. Outside of Cleveland, Toronto and possibly Boston, there aren’t a bunch of top level teams.

Chicago has enough talent to grind out 44 wins and secure a playoff spot. Should the Bulls do so, it will be with Butler leading the charge.

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Chris Jeter

Staff Writer
Chris has always had a love for sports. He inherited his affinity for them from his New York Yankees-loving dad and grandad, even if they gave his beloved Orioles a hard time during their 14 years of futility. Chis grew up an Orioles, Ravens, Maryland Terrapins and Chicago Bulls fan. His love for the local teams can from his mother. His love for the Bulls came from Michael Jordan and his favorite color being red. As a youth, Chris played basketball, baseball, and soccer with varying degrees of success. He always wanted to play for a team in one of those sports when he grew up, but once he quickly realized that, that was probably not going to happen, Chris wanted to be a part of sports in some other way. Eventually, Chris settled on becoming a sports writer. A year after transferring to the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, where he took Media & Communications Studies with a Journalism Minor, he began writing for The Retriever, initially as a contributing writer and eventually as a staff writer for sports. After several months writing for The Retriever, he began writing for So Much Sports, covering various college sports and as a columnist, writing about a variety of national sports topics.

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