As talked about ad nauseam on the site, Butler was absolutely superb in the opening month of the season. After missing the first two games of the year due to a thumb injury, the swingman immediately made his presence felt in his season debut, scoring 24 points and knocking down two game-winning free throws to beat Minnesota.
From that point on, Butler has been really good in just about every game save the Blazers debacle. He scored at least 20 points 11 times in November and reached the 30-point mark twice. He averaged 21.9 points, 5.7 rebounds and 3.1 assists while shooting 49.8 percent from the field in the month.
Butler has improved just about every aspect of his game besides three-point shooting. His mid-range game has gone from non-existent to dangerous, thanks in large part to a refined post game. He can create shots for himself and others off the dribble. He gets to the foul late at a ridiculous rate. Right now, he looks like that second shot creator on the wing we've all been waiting for.
This improvement comes after Butler and the Bulls failed to reach an agreement on a contract extension. New details came out yesterday saying the Bulls offered $11 million a year while Butler wanted $14 million a year, but he was reportedly willing to negotiate down.
In hindsight, the Bulls made a terrible mistake not reaching a compromise at somewhere around $12-$13 million a year. But I'm not going to completely ream them for it. Butler simply wasn't that good last year, and while there were some reasons for his struggles, I get why the Bulls didn't pay up. Giving all that money to a defensive specialist with all the questions surrounding Derrick Rose's future would have been a bit risky, although not paying up brought risk as well, as we see now.
However, I don't think even the most optimistic people could have envisioned Butler playing as well as he has this year. The dude is performing like a legit MVP candidate, and he cracked the top 10 in my initial MVP Power Rankings. This type of play will net him a max contract in the offseason, and that max will probably come even if there's some regression, which I expect.
So congrats to Jimmy. Not only will his improvement earn him more money, but it also makes the Bulls an even more serious title contender. And while the Bulls didn't pay up this past offseason, they better do it next summer.