Is Jimmy Butler the most clutch player in the NBA right now?
Jimmy Butler knows how to start a year the right way.
Over the last 18 games, Jimmy leads the NBA in clutch scoring with 57 points. Clutch scoring is defined as points scored in the last five minutes of games that are within five points. This shouldn’t be all that surprising right? Jimmy has been a monster in the fourth quarter for most of the season, but since Christmas, he’s risen even another level.
Jimmy Butler is ridiculous. pic.twitter.com/Z9NH97Zf6x
— Stephen Noh (@hungarianjordan) January 8, 2017
In the three games that he’s played while healthy in 2017, Jimmy is averaging 38 points, 9.3 rebounds, and 6.3 assists per game. He’s shooting 46 percent from the field, 40 percent from 3-point range, and 91.3 percent from the free throw line. And once the fourth quarter rolls around, he shifts it up to an even higher gear.
Jimmy Butler's PER in the fourth quarter/OT has risen to 35.8 thanks to his hot January start. MJ holds the Bulls' record at 32.9 in 1996-97
— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) January 9, 2017
A better PER than Michael Jordan in the fourth quarter isn’t just a fluke stat. What Butler is doing this season is truly special (even if he couldn’t pick up a “flu game” of his own against the Thunder).
A big reason for Butler’s recent success is the diminished roles of traditional starters at the end of games.
Fred Hoiberg on Jimmy Butler: "He's pretty much straight up our point guard for a lot of the games right now."
— Cody Westerlund (@CodyWesterlund) January 8, 2017
Jason Patt made this point very well over at BlogaBull, but the Bulls have found themselves an exponentially more successful closing lineup with MCW/Grant-Butler-McDermott-Mirotic-Felicio. Having both McDermott and Mirotic command respect from long range is doing wonders for Butler’s game. Go back and watch the above clips again. Can you imagine what the paint would look like if Rondo was handling the ball and trying to create? It’s night and day. This graph from The Athletic’s Stephen Noh is all you really need to see. It seems that the Bulls have realized that spacing is a good thing.
Watching Jimmy Butler play like this shouldn’t be taken for granted or given short shrift simply because of all the crazy scoring that’s happening all across the league. There are only a handful of people in the world that are capable of what Butler is accomplishing a few times a week.
Let’s hope the good vibes keep up and we can keep marveling at Butler’s late game heroics. It’s not a bad way to spend a season that’s essentially a trailer for Cavs-Warriors III.
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