Jimmy Butler’s path to superstardom has been astounding.
After being selected 30th overall by the Chicago Bulls in the 2011 NBA Draft, Butler played in just 42 games in his rookie season, logging 2.6 points, 1.3 rebounds and 0.3 assists over just 8.5 minutes per game. After receiving more playing time in his sophomore season, Butler assumed a major starting role in the 2013-2014 season and hasn’t looked back since, establishing himself as perhaps the best two-way wing in the entire league.
Last season, he averaged 23.9 points, 6.2 rebounds and 5.5 assists per game, all of which were career-highs. But, drama seemed to be brewing all season, which is likely the main reason that Chicago decided to trade Butler to the Minnesota Timberwolves in a shocking draft night deal.
Butler will now reunite with coach Tom Thibodeau, who coached him for the first four seasons of his career. While his numbers reached All-NBA levels under Fred Hoiberg in the last two seasons, it was obvious that there was a disconnect between the star and his coach.
In a recent interview, Butler explained why that was the case.
"I'm confrontational. I feed off of confrontation. It makes me go. Not everybody's like that. [Bulls head coach Fred Hoiberg] is not that coach, and there's nothing wrong with that,” Butler told Michael Pina of Vice Sports.
“There are different coaching styles and people are gonna say—which is what they did say—'It's gonna be Jimmy's team or it's gonna be Fred's team.' Two total opposite ends of the spectrum. They're either gonna try to win it now or they're gonna go young. And you see which way they went with it. Completely fine. Yo, it's y'all's business. It's y'all's organization. It's cool. And now I'm in Minnesota and couldn't be happier.”
As his on-court responsibilities grew over the course of his career in Chicago, Butler didn’t feel like his vocal leadership was accepted by the organization.
"I think they maybe expected me to stay the same, and I don't think that that's right. Like, I have changed. I will tell you that. But I think that I've changed for the better," Butler said. "When I say for the better, whenever I was a rookie, averaging 0.8 points per game or whatever it might be, it wouldn't matter if I scored that 0.8 because it wasn't going to win or lose us a game. Now, you go forward a couple years when I'm averaging 20 points per game, that's more than likely gonna cost us a game.”
He continued, “It’s gonna be the difference between winning or losing. Am I right? So now I don't give a damn about pressure, but if someone's going to take the blame for something, who they gonna point to? Me. So yeah, I've changed, because I want to (expletive) win. I want to show that I can win. So the way I go about things, it's not gonna be the way I went about things when I was a rookie, [when] I'm not gonna say anything. Now I've got something to (expletive) say."
Since he’s joining a young core in Minnesota alongside Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins, it should be fascinating to see whether or not he assumes the role of team captain immediately. Given his personality and superstar status, it’s safe to assume that might be the case.