Jimmy Butler is 27, he’s one of the best players in the NBA, and he leads the Bulls with 24.5 points per game.
But Chicago (24-25) may need to part ways with him, as Butler has once again had a not-so-private spat with teammates.
“The difficulty for the Bulls is that Jimmy Butler is a little bit of a late bloomer but just keeps getting better the last couple of years in terms of his all-around play on the court,” Bleacher Report NBA senior writer Howard Beck said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “The guy’s a stud. If you trade a guy like that, it’s hard to get good return. The question becomes, is he the guy you can build around – I think there are some legitimate questions there – or is he your best shot for a wholesale rebuild? The team they had that had become an Eastern Conference power for that five-year span under (Tom Thibodeau), it had a ceiling on it. It had its limitations, most of it because of injury, frankly, because of Derrick Rose’s knees and other guys wearing down. But I think they came to terms at a certain fact that that era was crashing down. It was hitting its natural end, and the question was how to transition out of it. Moving Derrick Rose was right because he and Butler wanted nothing to do with each other. Letting go of Joakim Noah was clearly the right move. They’re just now in this tough middle spot. Butler is great. He produces at an All-Star level. He’s an elite player. Is he truly a franchise star in terms of leadership and all these other qualities? I think there are questions there. But you know what? There are teams out there that are willing to give a pretty good haul for him, I bet. That’s just a philosophical decision they got to make right now.”
Butler and Dwyane Wade called out teammates last week for their poor play and a perceived lack of effort. Butler said he did not regret the comments he made and even said he likes controversy.
That was a red flag for Brandon Tierney, but it wasn’t for Beck.
“I think we disagree on this,” Beck said. “It’s not that you necessarily want to invite controversy, but there’s a concept called creative tension. Phil Jackson, during his Lakers and Bulls days, back when he was a highly successful coach, creative tension was something he used a lot. He didn’t mind Shaq and Kobe going at it a little bit because getting guys a little on edge sometimes got the best of them or got people’s attention. Jimmy Butler saying that he likes controversy, it just depends on the context and the kind of controversy. You don’t do it for the sake of doing it. You don’t just start throwing hand grenades in the locker room. There are guys who can be incredibly disruptive like a Dennis Rodman type or Derrick Rose going AWOL on the Knicks – that’s the kind of controversy you don’t want. But Butler and Wade causing controversy because they basically said our teammates aren’t fully committed or they’re not hustling enough – I don’t have a problem with that. I seriously don’t have a problem with Dwyane Wade, a three-time champion, calling out younger teammates, whether it’s (for) their work habits or their attitude, I had no problem with that. People said, ‘It should have stayed in the locker room.’ It doesn’t always happen that way. You know what? Maybe those guys deserved to be called out. Exercising leadership means sometimes you’re the guy who has to play the bad guy and do that publicly. So that stuff, I’m not worried about.”
Beck, however, is worried that Butler is once again sparring with teammates. Last year, Butler reportedly feuded with Derrick Rose. This year, it seems Butler is feuding with almost everybody.
“He basically just tried to take over the team (last year),” Beck said. “It was out of the blue. It was, ‘Well, now I’m putting up numbers at an All-Star level. Therefore, everything revolves around me.’ That has been the concern for Chicago.”
In other news, the New York Knicks (21-28) are still interested in moving Carmelo Anthony, with the Celtics and Clippers serving as possible destinations. Oklahoma City is also reported intrigued by the idea of pairing Anthony with Russell Westbrook.
Beck doesn’t understand why.
“The idea of a Westbrook/Carmelo pairing, yeah, it seems flawed on its face for obvious reasons,” he said. “You’ve got two guys who both want to dominate the ball. Westbrook and Durant were pretty successful despite both of them needing a lot of usage, a lot of possessions, but it worked because they were both playmakers, too. Durant is a really good passer. We’re seeing that in Golden State. He also was an incredibly efficient scorer when he is shooting – much more so than Carmelo Anthony has ever been. This would be like a much worse version of that. Carmelo doesn’t have Durant’s athleticism or his length, he doesn’t have his efficiency, he’s way older – Westbrook and Carmelo, I can’t see it.”
Still, the Thunder (28-20) need to make a move if they want to compete. Westbrook is averaging 30.8 points, 10.6 rebounds and 10.2 rebounds per game, but the Thunder are see-sawing with Memphis (28-21) for the sixth and seventh seeds in the West.
“That’s clearly a team that’s having to think creatively right now because they need to get Westbrook some help,” Beck said. “For all the entertainment value that goes along with triple-doubles and all that, at some point they got to get Westbrook some real help.”