New Wolves wing Jimmy Butler played three consecutive games earlier this month during which he attempted just 25 shots total — twice not even topping seven in a game.
It was part of a rather passive start to the season in which Butler seemingly attempted to defer to teammates such as Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins as he worked to fit into the Timberwolves’ offensive system.
After that stretch, though, Butler declared he was going to start looking for his own shot more often. “I’m going back to putting the ball in the basket,” he said as the Wolves prepared for a game in Phoenix. “I like to put the ball in the basket. I think I’ve gotten really good at it over the years, so we’ll see a different player from here on out.”
Butler seems like a man of his word, and the statistics prove him to be such in this case. In the nine games since that declaration, Butler has attempted 16.2 field goals per game. He’s averaging 20.2 points, 4.4 assists and 5.9 rebounds in that span. In his first nine games this season (he missed two in that span with illness, and the Wolves lost badly in both), Butler averaged just 14.7 points on 12.1 field goal attempts per game.
The Wolves have gone 5-4 in their last nine games — after going 7-4 in their first 11 — but they generally have played better.
Their net rating (offensive rating minus defensive rating, both of which measure production per 100 possessions) in those nine games is 3.7, good for 11th in the NBA in that span. For the season, their net rating is just 0.2, per NBA.com — 16th in the league.
Combined with other factors — including his recent quote in which he decried that the Wolves “haven’t guarded anybody all year long” and “have to eventually figure it out and want to play defense” — Butler’s imprint on this team is becoming clearer as the season goes on.