Jimmy Butler, Nikola Mirotic, Taj Gibson Returning To Save Chicago Bulls

Chicago Bulls guard Jimmy Butler was forced to miss a month of action because of a knee injury. During that stretch, the Bulls won three games and lost eight. The NBA Playoffs looked like it was sailing further and further away. According to ESPN, Butler is now healthy and ready to return to the Bulls. The All-Star shooting guard is also bringing along some reinforcement in Nikola Mirotic and Taj Gibson.

For a period of time there, the season looked pretty bleak for the Chicago Bulls. Nikola Mirotic had to be hospitalized because of his appendix, and Joakim Noah was forced to miss the rest of the season because of a severe shoulder injury. That robbed the Bulls of their enviable front court depth. Then, Jimmy Butler goes down with a knee injury, and Taj Gibson started having issues with his hamstring, so some started looking towards the following season.

Bulls forward Nikola Mirotic Nikola Mirotic [Photo by J Pat Carter/Getty Images]The Chicago Bulls are sitting on a 30-30 record, which places them ninth in the Eastern Conference. Unless you’re the Philadelphia 76ers, teams don’t generally like to tank in the NBA. Thanks to the Draft Lottery, you’re not guaranteed the top pick by being the worst team. The Bulls would much rather fight for a spot in the NBA Playoffs than to simply try to see if a mid-level college player can become a difference maker next season.

The road to the NBA Playoffs is rough for the Chicago Bulls. One place ahead of them in the Eastern Conference are the Detroit Pistons. Stan Van Gundy increased his team’s chances of making the NBA Playoffs by pulling the trigger on a trade that brought Tobias Harris to the Motor City. His three-point shooting ability clears the lane for All-Star center Andre Drummond, which will make it difficult for the Bulls.

Bulls forward Taj Gibson Taj Gibson [Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images]At the seventh spot in the Eastern Conference are the Indiana Pacers. Thanks in large part to the resurgence of Paul George from a gruesome leg injury, the Pacers are a really good team. They might be even better now that they have signed Ty Lawson, who was recently bought out by the Houston Rockets because he could not fit in with James Harden. If Lawson returns to form in Indiana, then the Chicago Bulls will have an even tougher time.

The Chicago Bulls simply cannot look at the teams that are ahead of them in the Eastern Conference. They also have to check their rear view mirror. Breathing right down their necks are the Washington Wizards. Head coach Randy Wittman shifted Bradley Beal from the starting shooting guard spot to the bench, and it recently produced four victories in a row. If the Wizards develop even more chemistry with this new lineup, then the Chicago Bulls will find themselves even further away from the NBA Playoffs.

Bulls center Pau Gasol Pau Gasol [Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images]Fortunately for the Chicago Bulls, their front line isn’t going to be so thin any more. Nikola Mirotic brings depth and outside shooting to the small forward and power forward positions. Taj Gibson, who absolutely refused to let his hamstring injury ruin the season for the Bulls, brings energy and defense to the power forward and center positions. Pau Gasol and Bobby Portis won’t have to carry as heavy of a workload now.

At the end of the day, though, it all comes down to what Jimmy Butler can bring to the Chicago Bulls. Everyone already knows how great of a player he can be. The question mark is in regard to his injured knee. It’s hard to be a dominating player in the NBA if you’re not comfortable with going full speed. If Butler recovers just fine, then the Bulls are in a good position to make the NBA Playoffs and even make some noise against the top teams.

[Featured Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images]