Jimmy Butler, acquired by the Minnesota Timberwolves from the Chicago Bulls, has had a different type of production on his new team so far.
His playing time has not decreased, considering his 36 minutes per game for coach Tom Thibodeau is about on par with what he has logged in the past. However, he is no longer the leading option for his offense. Last season, Butler scored a team-high 29.7 percent of the points for Chicago when he was on the floor. This year, that has decreased to just 18.4 percent.
But his offensive skills have not gotten worse. During his final two years playing for Thibodeau in Chicago, he averaged 30.5 points per 100 touches. This year, that has decreased just slightly to 27.1 points per 100 touches.
Instead, his team is using him in different ways. This season, his usage rate is 19.9 percent – which trails Karl-Anthony Towns (25.2), Andrew Wiggins (24.8), Jamal Crawford (24.6) and Jeff Teague (20.1).
It’s a significant difference from his last season with the Bulls when he had a career-high 26.5 percent usage rate. The two seasons prior to that, his usage rates were 24.4 percent and 21.6 percent. According to Cleaning The Glass, that was more than all but six percent of the league’s wings.
Wiggins, his new teammate, ranked 11th overall in total usage rate after the All-Star Break last season at 37.1 percent. Both wings, it’s no surprise one of them would take a smaller offensive role.
Since the 2013-14 season, Butler had always received at least 40 passes per game. In fact, last year, Butler received 56.4 passes each time he played. This year, this is down to 38.1 passes received per appearance.
But it’s unclear if Butler will continue to play second (or third, fourth or fifth) fiddle. Here is one analysis of the team from this season (via SB Nation):
“So far, Butler’s usage rate has been the one to plummet. His current usage rate is 19.8 percent. He certainly has taken on a facilitation role with this group and has been picking and choosing his spots to score. Butler is also the most versatile of the star trio and he likely was cognizant that he is more able to adjust to the new system compared to Wiggins and Towns. As the season goes on, I wouldn’t be surprised to see his usage go up at the expense of Towns and Wiggins.”
Butler, an NBA veteran, is a two-way player with value on both sides of the court.
While his offense is off to a slow start, it seems to be more so to enable the players around him. He still helps their high-caliber offense and can always kick it into gear when his team needs him most.