The NBA named Jimmy Butler as Most Improved Player Thursday morning, as the guard was a runaway winner of the award in his breakout season for the Bulls.
Butler received 92 of 129 first-place votes and 535 total points from sportswriters and broadcasters, more total points than the two runners-up, Golden State's Draymond Green and Utah's Rudy Gobert, who combined for 389 points.
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Butler led the Bulls in scoring with 20 points per game, 5.8 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 1.7 steals. Butler's scoring and production has increased in every season since being drafted in 2011, and his 6.9-point increase in scoring average was the best in the NBA this season.
After word began to break early in Game 2 of the Bulls-Cavaliers series, Butler was too upset with himself to reflect on the award.
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"Not too much right now. I’m focused on helping this ballclub win some games," Butler said. "I want to win this series, I want to win a championship. At the end of the season, maybe this Most Improved Player Award will mean a lot more."
The Bulls faced a steep test opening their 2018-19 campaign against the Philadelphia 76ers.
That task won't become any easier with Kris Dunn missing the game for personal reasons, head coach Fred Hoiberg told reporters at shootaround on Thursday.
Dunn's exlusion opens up an opportunity for Cameron Payne, who will enter the starting lineup. Payne started 14 games for the Bulls last season, averaging 9.4 points and 5.6 assists in 26.5 minutes.
It also moves up Ryan Arcidiacono and Tyler Ulis, both of whom will be active, in the rotation. Expect both to see at least some playing time, especially with Denzel Valentine also out while recovering from a sprained ankle suffered in training camp.
It could mean an even bigger evening for Sixers point guard Ben Simmons. The reigning Rookie of the Year posted 19 points, 15 rebounds and 8 assists in Philly's season-opening loss to the Celtics on Tuesday.
On this edition of the Bulls Talk podcast, the Bulls Outsiders team of Matt Peck, David Watson, and John Sabine join Kevin Anderson to talk about the series premier of ‘Bulls Outsiders’ Thursday night. Hear about how the show came together and what they are hoping to bring to the Bulls fanbase this season. They’ll also share their bold predictions for the season including two potential end-of-season award winners from this roster.
0:15- Introduction to the Bulls Outsiders
3:15- The process of casting the show
9:45- John Sabine's Improv background and comedy's connection to basketball
11:20- What the Outsiders hope to accomplish with the show
13:00- What's great about Bulls fans
14:20- Who is their favorite Bull of all time, outside of Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen
26:20- Bold on the court predcitions for the season
Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below: