What's Next: Jimmy Butler

Jimmy Butler was one of the many All-Stars who changed teams this off-season. He’s a workhorse who has finished in the top four in minutes per game the past four seasons. Over the past three seasons he has increased his scoring and assists per game. So what’s next for Jimmy Butler as he gets ready to start his first season with the Minnesota Timberwolves?

Well Butler will be reunited with coach Tom Thibodeau who made Butler an All-Star player while with the Chicago Bulls. This time around Thibs will have to get Butler to be more of a mentor for the up and coming Wolves. In the past Butler was the guy learning from guys like Joakim Noah, Carlos Boozer and even Derrick Rose.

Many experts expected the Wolves to take a leap last year with the addition of Thibodeau but the young core of Karl Anthony-Towns, Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine could not get a grip on Thibs style and struggled to win just 31 games. Thibs is known as a defensive guru but the Wolves finished 26th in defensive rating.

Butler is one of the top 2-way players in the league. He has become a better scorer throughout the years but at his core he is a defensive minded guy. He should not be the go to guy on this team; that duty should fall on Karl Towns. So this season Butler should focus more on efficiency. The majority of top players in the league are efficient scorers. Butler has finished with an EFG over 50% just once in his career. He’s surrounded by better talent so he should get better shots.

He hovers around 45% shooting for his career. He was a decent 3-point shooter last season but that was only on 3.3 attempts per game. With Towns demanding double teams and Wiggins on the other side; Butler should find more open shots this season. He often settled for contested mid-range shots but his strength is getting to the basket where he finished 4th in free throw attempts per game at 8.9.

Butler’s biggest contribution to this team may never show up in the box score. As great as Towns is, he’s only 21, Wiggins is the same age. Butler needs to be the leader of this team. Yes, he’s an All-Star but he is also battle tested. He’s played in meaningful games after the All-Star break and made playoff runs. The Wolves lacked composure down the stretch in games. In clutch moments (last 5 mins within 5 points) the Wolves only scored an average of 5.7 points and were 10-30 in those games. In other words, the Wolves were terrible in close games.

Butler can still average 20+ points alongside Towns and Wiggins next season but making those two guys better defensive players is key for the Wolves going forward. He already knows the system that Thibs loves to run. He has to be willing to sacrifice some touches but still be able to come through with clutch plays; either by scoring or making the right pass.

The Wolves are getting better and many have picked them to make the playoffs this season. They still lack some depth but the addition of Jimmy Butler has them going in the right direction.

 

 

2016 NBA MVP Candidates

There are only a handful of NBA MVP candidates each year. The first month of the season we will see all these MVP lists but by the All-Star break half of those guys will fall off the list. Remember that wins count in the MVP process and the writers enjoy a good story. The MVP will have to be on a 50-win team and probably a top 3 seed.

This will be a short list for me. All of the Warriors will split votes so I don’t see any of them winning the award. The writers probably won’t vote for Kevin Durant either, he’ll probably get the same treatment LeBron got when he went to Miami.

Russell Westbrook will have an amazing season but I don’t think the Thunder will win enough games. 41 wins was good enough to make the 8th seed last year out West. I don’t think that will be the case this season and I don’t see the Thunder winning 50+ games.

James Harden falls into the same category as Westbrook. The Rockets will be great on offense especially with Harden at point guard. He might average 27 and 10 but the team is so bad on defense I think they will lose a lot of close games and just miss winning 50 games.

This list is in no particular order but these are my MVP candidates:

 Can Kawhi win MVP and DPOY in the same season?

Can Kawhi win MVP and DPOY in the same season?

Kawhi Leonard – He has gotten better each season. He’s already the best defender in the league and has won that award the last two seasons. His 3pt shooting percentage rose from 34% to 44%. The Spurs won a franchise record 67 games last season but now they will be without Tim Duncan. That is the story right there for Kawhi. If he can lead the Spurs to another 50-win season while becoming a better playmaker, he can win his first MVP award.

 Can LeBron capture his 5th MVP award?

Can LeBron capture his 5th MVP award?

LeBron James – He will always be in the conversation. His first season back in Cleveland snapped a five-year streak of shooting above 50% from the field. Last season he was back at 52%. I think LeBron will go back to being more efficient, that includes shooting a better percentage from beyond the arc. His scoring might stay around 25, 26 points per game but I can see his rebounding and assists going up. He will allow Kyrie to score more and he will continue to get Kevin Love involved in the game. Cleveland will easily win 50 games and be a top 2 seed in the East.

 Can Blake become the first Clipper to win the MVP award?

Can Blake become the first Clipper to win the MVP award?

Blake Griffin – Before he got hurt he was on pace to put up career numbers. If the Clippers stagger Chris Paul and Blake, meaning they let Blake play more with the second unit then his assists numbers will increase. Blake is a great playmaker and passer which he showed when Chris Paul missed time two seasons ago.  He is now stepping out to the 3-point line and shooting it with confidence. If healthy the Clippers will again improve on their franchise record of wins in a season. This team can win 60 games this season.