Bulls Proving that Without Jimmy Butler, “They are who we thought they were”

In the words of a furious Dennis Green, in regards to another Chicago sports team a decade ago, the Bulls proved last night against the Thunder, that they are who we thought they were.

The Chicago Bulls came into their match-up with the Oklahoma City Thunder last night riding a three game winning streak, with a prime-time battle between Jimmy Butler and Russell Westbrook on tap.

Russell Westbrook came into Monday averaging a triple-double on the season, with 31.4 points per game, 10.6 rebounds, and 10.3 assists per game.

Jimmy Butler on the other hand entered the day averaging 25.6 points per game, 6.9 rebounds per game, and 4.5 assists per game. Not quite Westbrook type numbers, but stellar none-the-less. Butler was also averaging 38 points per game over his last three games, after leading the Bulls to three consecutive wins to kick off January after the Bulls dismal month of December.

Butler was named the Eastern Conference Player of the Week early on Monday, and it looked like we were going to see the Bulls and the Thunder showcase two of the best all-around players that the NBA has to offer, until Monday afternoon when it was reported that Butler missed the team’s shoot-around with what was classified as flu-like symptoms.

Butler would of course suit up for the game and give it a whirl, because he’s Jimmy Butler, why else? Despite his attempt to play through his illness, Butler was never able to get it going on Monday night, going 0-for-6 from the field with one point at the charity stripe in 29 minutes, before being taken out of the game in the third quarter, at which point he would not return for the evening. Even with his illness and his inability to score on Monday night, Butler still led the Bulls in assists with seven.

So Jimmy was sick, it happens, no one can hold him accountable for the loss in which he was visibly ill on the court, especially after the minutes logged over his last three contests. Fred Hoiberg actually said in Monday night’s post-game press conference, that Butler was actually sent home to rest after he was removed late in the third quarter, and confirmed that Butler would not travel with the team today, and is expected not to play tonight when the Bulls visit the Washington Wizards.

The real takeaway from Monday night’s game was the fact that the Bulls proved that they were exactly who we thought they were thus far, a non-factor in the Eastern Conference without Jimmy Butler throwing the team on his back night-in and night-out.

The Bulls trailed the Thunder for most of the night, and never really stood a chance without the scoring power that their fearless leader usually supplies. The Thunder outscored the Bulls in each of the first three quarters, en route to an easy 109-94 victory.

In Butler’s absence the Bulls were led by veteran guard Dwyane Wade who totaled 22 points, with Michael-Carer Williams adding 15 points for the Bulls, and Cristiano Felicio recording a double-double with 11 points and 11 rebounds. Dwyane Wade also suffered a neck injury on Monday night, and despite returning to the game, Bulls Head Coach Fred Hoiberg confirmed that Wade also will not travel with the team or play in tomorrow night’s bout with the Wizards.

The Thunder held the Bulls to just 40 percent from the field, while Oklahoma City shot a solid 56 percent from the field on the evening. The Bulls were dominated in scoring by the Thunder and beat up in the paint all night, as Oklahoma City outscored the Bulls 34-18 in the paint.

It’s hard to determine what the Bulls would be like without Jimmy Butler in the lineup on a regular basis, because Butler has played in every single game this season to date. In fact, Butler has only had two other games this season in which he played less than 30 minutes, with both of those games coming in the first week of the season, and Butler was rested late in a pair of Bulls blow-out victories over the Indiana Pacers, and the Brooklyn Nets.

Even in lieu of the statistical evidence, it doesn’t take Sherlock Holmes to ascertain that the Bulls would be a non-factor in the Eastern Conference without Jimmy Buckets. One piece of statistical evidence that you could lean on is Butler’s win shares this season, which is an estimate number of wins contributed by an individual player, much like the wins above replacement statistic in Major League Baseball for example. Butler has a 7.3 win share this season, and the Bulls only have 19 wins compared to 19 losses on the season. Take away Butlers roughly seven wins, and the Bulls are sitting at 12-26 right now, good for 13th in the Eastern Conference.

Sure, not an exact science, but I believe it’s a fair assessment of where the Bulls stand without Butler. We know for sure that they would have dropped their previous three games this past week without the reigning Eastern Conference Player of the Week.

We will find out more in regards to how that Bulls would fare without Butler tonight when the Bulls take on the Wizards on the road without him.

Catch the Bulls (19-19) take on the Washington Wizards this evening at 6:00 PM (CT) on CSN-Chicago (TV) and WLS-890AM (Radio).

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