In the wake of Dwyane Wade’s season-ending injury, the Bulls 2017 season has slid even further into irrelevance. While Bulls had been playing poorly enough anyway to be in 10th place and a full game out of the playoff picture, at least the prospect of Wade turning back the clock in the playoffs was 4% exciting. Still a 96% pool of apathy, but now that’s full.
Though it’s possible this team doesn’t actually dip much without Wade. He was, after all, the Bulls ‘best’ off-court player, as in of the Bulls lineups without a player, lineups without Wade performed best. There’s a better fit around Jimmy Butler, especially if there’s still an insistence on playing Rondo heavy minutes, to have shooters like Denzel Valentine, Jerian Grant, and Paul Zipser at the wing spots instead of Wade. They’re not great defensive options, but Wade had mostly given up on that end anyway (for like 5 years now...).
So the remainder of the year can be ‘Jimmy and the Butlers’, which is what the season should’ve always been...though with better players than this, of course.
The problem with that theory is that Jimmy himself doesn’t look the same since the acknowledged heel injury suffered just before the All-Star break. Old pal Kevin Ferrigan posted the case after Wade’s injury that’s a simple one to make:
He’s getting to the line for about 3 and half less attempts per 100 possessions and he’s also taking fewer shots overall. He’s passing much more frequently when he drives and the Bulls are producing fewer points per Butler drive as a result (which is a nice way of saying Butler’s teammates stink and it’s better when he takes it himself on drives). His finishing on drives is much, much worse the last month as he went from shooting 51.5% on drives to just 42.6% since the injury.
Every indication is that Butler is not himself and he’s playing hurt. This is stupid. The Bulls are going exactly nowhere this season and Butler is the only player on their team who really, truly matters.
I’m not usually a tanking guy, but I am a preserve Jimmy Butler guy. The team may lose a lot of these last 14 games regardless, but it may hurt Butler further to try and carry the team by himself now. Go the other way and have him heal the heel. And give draft nerds more hope than before, at least until the Bulls draft some 23 year old from a major program because he showed a ‘talent for winning’.