Derrick Rose's return to the NBA playoffs has been met with feverish excitement and curiosity. Injuries the past three seasons limited the 2011 NBA Most Valuable Player to just 100 games, robbing him of 246 games and robbing the Bulls of a legitimate chance at chasing a championship. There was a legitimate concern that after three remarkable seasons, D. Rose's career would be shortened by injuries, his talent, youth, and body stolen in much the same way as befallen Brandon Roy. Rose is back, not completely, but he's playing at a high level and for all basketball fans, that's a great thing.
The Bulls are back in the playoffs and have a two game lead in their first round series against the Milwaukee Bucks. But it's not been D.Rose's comeback party; it's been Jimmy Butler's star-making party.
Butler, the 30th overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft, has been phenomenal for the Bulls thru the first two games. He scored 25 points in Game 1, followed by 31 points in Game 2 including 14 in the fourth quarter. He's averaging 28 points, a considerable improvement over the 13.6 points per game he averaged in the 2014 playoffs where the Bulls lost in five games to the Washington Wizards.
The 2015 season has been a career season for Butler, so it only makes sense that he turn up the volume during the playoffs. The playoffs are where stars are born. Butler made his first All-Star appearance this season, joining Kyrie Irving and Klay Thompson as the only two players from the 2011 NBA Draft to be named an All-Star.
During the 2015 season, Butler became the go-to player for the Bulls. While Rose battled injuries, Butler upped his scoring average from 13.1 PPG last season to 20.0 PPG. He also improved his field goal shooting percentage, three point shooting percentage, free throw percentage, rebounds and assists per game. It was truly a career year, and it has extended into the postseason.
Game 3 between the Bulls and Bucks takes place in Milwaukee, where Butler starred for Marquette University. What can be billed as a homecoming of sorts can also be the nail in the coffin for the Bucks. Going down 3-0 will surely spell doom for Milwaukee.
The question that lingers is how good can the Bulls be this postseason? Before the playoffs started, it seemed to be destined for the surging Cavaliers with LeBron and Co. to meet up with the unselfish, shoot-it-by-committee Hawks. But the Bulls might have something to say.
Besides Butler and Rose, Pau Gasol was the second leading rebounder in the Eastern Conference during the regular season as well as lead the league in double doubles. Gasol and Joakim Noah have formed a formidable front court, evidenced by their play so far in the playoffs. Noah is averaging 15 rebounds per game this postseason, slightly ahead of Gasol's 14.5 rebounds per game. Mike Dunleavy, the starting small forward, is shooting 50% from beyond the arc. Backup guard Aaron Brooks is shooting 57% from 3-point land.
The Bulls have the ability and talent to contend for the Eastern Conference. Rose's return helps but the load is on Butler. In Game 2, his big fourth quarter was evidence that he's the Bulls' best player right now. How far they advance in this year's playoffs will rely heavily on him.
Photo courtesy of stacksmag.net
x Manny Geraldo
Follow us on Twitter @insiders13
©2015 Hardwood Insiders. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.