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Jimmy Butler Named NBA’s Most Improved Player

The Chicago Bulls were already getting shellacked by the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 2 of their second-round playoff series, but some good news for the Bulls came across the wire on Wednesday night:

The NBA officially announced the award on Thursday. Jimmy Butler received 92 first-place votes and 535 total points. Draymond Green finished in second, while Rudy Gobert came in third. Hassan Whiteside and Klay Thompson round out the top five. Here are the full voting results:

Butler made a stunning leap this season, from a defense-first role player to a legitimate star. Hampered by a toe injury last season, the Marquette product averaged 13.1 points, 4.9 rebounds and 2.6 assists in 38.7 minutes per game while shooting a woeful 39.7 percent overall and 28.3 percent from three.

This year, Butler averaged 20.0 points, 5.8 rebounds and 3.3 assists in 38.7 minutes per game while shooting 46.2 percent overall and 37.8 percent from three. He also increased his free throw attempts per game from 5.0 to 7.1, and his free throw percentage went from 76.9 percent to 83.4 percent.

All this resulted in a jump in true shooting percentage from 52.2 percent to 58.3 percent, and nearly an eight-point jump in his PER. This improved offense came at the expense of his defense, but these are monster jumps basically across the board offensively. His shooting touch has improved, his post game has improved, his driving has improved and his playmaking has improved.

Butler’s vast improvement has carried over into the postseason. He’s averaging 23.4 points, 5.0 rebounds and 3.8 assists in 41.5 minutes per game while shooting 45.9 percent overall and 38.0 percent from three. Obviously that has little bearing on a regular-season award, but he’s proving he can get it done when it really matters as well.

Butler’s great play this year has him in line for a huge raise this offseason, when he’ll almost certainly get a max contract.

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