The Emergence of Jimmy "Neat" Butler


Is it too early to sing the praises of an NBA rookie who, as the 30th pick in the draft, is still well under the radar screen of most observers around the league? A rookie who has seen comparatively little playing time thus far? A rookie whose point production has been anything but eye-catching?

I'll let the late, great, Senator Clay Davis answer that:

Why "Neat"? Because Butler's game is noticeably uncomplicated and economical. No wasted motion, no histrionics; straight and to the point. Oh, and his initials are JB, so whether one is sitting at a bar, dancing at a club, or watching the Jimmy play, neat is always the preferred option.

What about the substance of the matter? That's a fair question. Everyone surely knows of Butler's hardships while growing up (thanks to the bio passed around to all NBA announcers), and the story is inspiring. But no matter how heart-warming his achievements have been thus far, few fans will become or remain excited about a player unless he can ball. Well, as Senator Davis suggests above, it's already clear that Neat can ball.

Known for his defense at Marquette, and an obvious fit for this Bulls team, Butler was, due to injuries, thrust into the position of having to guard one of the most potent offensive players in the league last night - Carmelo Anthony. Melo scored only four points in the final quarter of a tight game, with Neat glued to him much of the time.

Butler shows uncanny intelligence and restraint on the court, and appears to have a high basketball IQ. These are qualities that are particularly welcomed by Bulls fans, who have had to suffer through the likes of Tyrus Thomas and James Johnson in recent years.

Not surprisingly, Butler has not yet been aggressive on the offensive end. But the glimpses that we have gotten have been very encouraging. He is clearly the type of player who is unlikely to force bad shots. He has a smooth stroke, and a knack for drawing fouls. He also promises to be a solid free-throw shooter on a team that is decidedly weak in that area.

Given the tiny sample size to date, numbers are relatively meaningless. But Jimmy Butler has already shown more than enough to warrant excitement, and not only from Bulls fans. His coach and teammates are obviously happy with his early development, and even with the return of Rip and Deng, let's hope that he is given plenty of minutes during which he can continue to hone his skills.

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