Join the “TLS” writers in a roundtable discussion every Monday on The Loop Sports! This Week we discuss how far Jimmy Butler can carry the Chicago Bulls this season, and whether or not we are buying into the Bears optimism in their season ending press conference last week.
The Loop Sports Staff Roundtable for the week of January 9, 2017:
Jimmy Butler willed the Bulls to three consecutive wins this past week, just how far can he carry the Bulls this season?
Patrick Flowers: Jimmy Butler is obviously the cornerstone of the Chicago Bulls franchise, and in my opinion, one of the best two-way players in the entire NBA. Butler threw his name into the league’s MVP discussion this week when he led the Bulls to three wins, over three of the top four teams in the Eastern Conference Standings by averaging 38 points per game, with nine rebounds and five assists.
As special of a player as Butler is, and as dominant as he has been in the fourth quarter this season closing out games for the Bulls, a playoff date with the Cleveland Cavaliers will likely be the demise of the Bulls season once again, unless guys like Doug McDermott and Nikola Mirotic continue to emerge as consistent scorers for the Bulls. Butler needs a supporting cast to help keep him fresh for his fourth quarter performances, and this past week was the most optimistic showing from the Bulls in quite some time, but I’m not sold just yet.
Jimmy Butler along with Dwayne Wade has become a very nice duo, but Doug McDermott and Nikola Mirotic are the key to this team going forward. The Bulls can play with, and beat anyone in the league when those two are hitting shots. Hopefully the Bulls can build on Saturday night’s win going forward. They also have to figure out the Rajon Rondo situation.
Matt Grabianski: Jimmy Butler can try, but one man can’t win them all. At best he can carry them to the playoffs, but even then there’s no chance that they will actually compete for a conference title or NBA championship.
Matthew Smith: Jimmy Butler is averaging 38 points, 2.3 steals, and is shooting 40 percent from behind the arc this month. In his last three December tilts, he dropped 26, 25 and 40 against the Bucks, Pacers and Nets. If there’s another player doing more for his team right now, let me know.
His efforts won’t be enough to make it past the Cavaliers, Raptors, Celtics or Hawks in the first round of the NBA playoffs, though. To be clear; I don’t see a drop-off in performance. If anything, Butler will continue to be one of the best players in the league. The Bulls are simply too thin and don’t have the chips to make a move to land an impact perimeter shooter or inside presence.
I’m all in on the MVP talk. Butler is that good. Unfortunately, the club lacks athleticism, consistent perimeter shooting (other than Butler) and doesn’t have the type of bench that can pick up the starting five in the postseason.
Anders Johanson: The Bulls need to decide rather quickly if they want to go for some sort of playoff push this season or cash in on what Butler’s value is right now. Butler has put the team on his back and showed what kind of player he is and the Bulls either need to rally around him and commit to something this season or deal him and try for a rebuild.
Owen Schoenfeld: Jimmy Butler’s work ethic is unparalleled. He went from a solid role player to an All-Star to a legit MVP candidate in the span of three seasons. The two-way star cut cable and internet ahead of the 2014-2015 season to focus solely on refining his game and that marked a turning point in his blossoming career.
The Jimmy Butler of today has elevated his game to a new echelon. He’s averaging close to 40 points over his last three games and the arrow is trending up. The Bulls currently stand at the 7th seed and are a free-throw distance away from the #4 seed in a tight Eastern Conference. Butler trade rumors have been cropping up, but this isn’t a player you trade. Even if Butler doesn’t lead the Bulls past the Raptors and Cavs this season, he’s a fulcrum to build around in hopes of doing so in the years to come.
Tim Moran: Jimmy Butler’s play this week was nothing short of spectacular. However, I still believe that the Bulls just don’t have enough around him to make it to the conference finals or anything past that. If Jimmy Butler were to average 38 points per game for the remainder of the season like he did this week, then I would give the Bulls a shot at the NBA Finals. Obviously, he can’t however, so I think the real takeaway from this week is the emergence of Doug McDermott.
McDermott averaged 15 points per game this week, which is very solid if he can keep it up, considering his season average is just 10.4 PPG. Butler’s star output this week was amazing, but it’s the guys around him that make a real playoff team, which is why McDermott is so important. For example, LeBron couldn’t win a championship in his initial Cleveland years because his teammates weren’t good enough. But with guys like Dwyane Wade and Kyrie Irving, LeBron has won 3 NBA championships. So, I think if we’re being realistic, the furthest the Bulls can go is the second round of the playoffs, if they are able to nab a six seed or better. Their only hope of going further is to see the rest of the squad develop like McDermott has recently.
What are your initial thoughts on the Bears season ending press conference from last week, and are you buying their optimistic outlook for 2017?
Patrick Flowers: Ryan Pace and John Fox said all of the right things in their season ending press conference last week at Halas Hall, but that’s not surprising as they had days to prepare for this media interrogation. Actually, as poorly as the season has gone, Pace could have started prepping for this presser about a month ago if he wanted to.
I like that Pace stressed the importance of vastly improving the secondary this offseason, and I like that he stressed patience and trust in the process as opposed to going out and making impulse signings in free-agency that the team may regret long-term. I really liked that John Fox admitted that the lack of carries for Jordan Howard was a mistake, and will be corrected in 2017, but overall I find it hard to buy into this abundance of optimism for a team that went 3-13, and retained almost everyone on the coaching staff to do it over in 2017.
Nick Petrusevski: I thought Ryan Pace and John Fox said all the right things at their end of the season presser. Of course I’m going to buy into their optimistic outlook for 2017.
The team has a ton of salary cap space, and a top-three draft pick. That’s pretty exciting considering how bad the last two years have been. I’m fully aware that the right players have to be drafted and signed, but going forward I think the Bears will be one of the busiest teams in the NFL in terms in roster moves this offseason.
Matt Grabianski: I believe in the optimism for the future, but a rebuild will take time. I’m intrigued by the obvious willingness to make some important additions to the secondary, but in order to contend the Bears need far more than a few free-agent acquisitions. This one off-season isn’t going to make the Bears good again, but it’s possible that it will be the first major step in the right direction.
Matthew Smith: Yeah. I’m not buying into any optimism regarding the Chicago Bears. Sure, the team didn’t quit on Head Coach John Fox. Yes, Jordan Howard is a star in the making. (Heck, he’s already there.) And yes, the Bears were decimated by injuries this season, leading the NFL in total cap money on IR, per Spotrac.com.
This club is simply too far away. Who’s going to take snaps next season? The offensive line is still a question mark. The wide-outs are, um, mercurial. Don’t even get me started on the secondary. All told, I think the team is two solid drafts away from being competitive enough to sniff the playoffs. And we know how well the Bears draft.
Owen Schoenfeld: Ryan Pace’s opening statement couldn’t have been more scripted. In fact, it felt like a low-rent movie production with bad acting and screenwriting as cliche as it comes. That said, they are in a cliche spot. The IR was a revolving door all season and while it’s not an excuse, it’s certainly a consideration. Pace finally has the financial flexibility to overhaul the secondary this offseason and Cameron Meredith and Jordan Howard look like potential pillars on offense. What’s clear is that Kevin White is hardly a stable replacement for Alshon Jeffery – who the Bears absolutely need to bring back.
What’s clearer is that this team isn’t going anywhere until they determine who is taking the snaps. Spoiler: it’s not Jay Cutler. The common denominator across all stable NFL franchises is firm standing at the QB spot. It’s not enough to ride a flash-in-the-pan arm either. It’s time for a legit franchise QB in Chicago and the number three pick is the place to take that gamble. Until then, nothing else matters.
Tim Moran: From what I gathered, it seems like the Bears have acknowledged the truly awful season that they had, which is good. Recognizing the problem is the first step in solving it. However, I am buying into their optimistic outlook for 2017. The draft class this year is stocked with quality defenders and quarterbacks like Mitch Trubisky, DeShaun Watson, and DeShone Kizer.
While none of the quarterbacks are made out to be future superstars, they all have the potential to be an upgrade over Jay Cutler, with much less of a salary cap hit. Furthermore, the Bears season was riddled with injuries, suspensions, and close games. If they had avoided most of that unluckiness, I could see them finishing 6-10 in 2016.
However, I don’t think 2017 will be a giant step forward. 2018 is a better year to hope for a .500 or better season as the new number 3 draft pick, Jordan Howard, and the multitude of other young Bears players continue to develop.