Are Bulls better off without D-Wade? No way, says Jimmy Butler

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Bulls star Jimmy Butler knows how it looks.

Since teammate Dwyane Wade went out with a fractured right elbow nine games ago, the Bulls have taken off.

And it’s not just their 6-3 record in Wade’s absence, either. The numbers across the board scream, ‘‘Who needs D-Wade?’’

Well, Butler does.

‘‘Playoff time is different,’’ Butler said when he was asked about the idea of the Bulls playing better without Wade.

Butler admitted, though, that Wade changes the offensive dynamic on the court in regular-season games.

‘‘I wouldn’t say [we’re better without him],’’ Butler said. ‘‘I would say that we get to space the floor a little bit more. It’s one half of the isolation piece because I do it. And whenever he and I both do it, the ball does stop. But he gets a lot of baskets doing that, so we’ll take that.’’

Before Wade’s injury, the Bulls were averaging 102.4 points. In the nine games since, they’ve averaged 108.5.

Butler was averaging 23.9 points, 6.2 rebounds and 5.5 assists before Wade’s injury. He’s averaging 28.5 points, six rebounds and 8.1 assists in the nine games since.

Then there’s Rajon Rondo, who has the ball in his hands more often without Wade. Rondo was averaging 7.8 points, 5.1 rebounds and 6.7 assists before Wade got hurt and is averaging 11.5 points, 6.1 rebounds and 8.4 assists in the nine games since.

‘‘A different kind of basketball is coming,’’ Butler said with a laugh, pointing out that regular-season numbers mean nothing when playoff basketball starts.

As Butler explained, the game slows down in the playoffs. Because teams are facing each other in best-of-seven series, they learn each other’s weaknesses and how to exploit them.

One isolation player is good in the playoffs, but two are better. That’s what Wade’s return will mean.

‘‘I’ll get a lot of spot-up jump shots with him on the floor, running that action,’’ Butler said of Wade’s anticipated return for the playoffs. ‘‘If everybody is doing their job, taking that shot from the perimeter when they’re open, we’ll take that.

‘‘Because late in the games, especially playoff games, everybody isn’t going to be able to key on me and double me. Not when there’s another guy that can go get a bucket.’’

Coach Fred Hoiberg shared a similar opinion.

‘‘Dwyane, especially when we get into fourth quarters, if we get a little bit stagnant, he’s the guy that we can give the ball to and good things happen.’’

There are also things numbers can’t measure. While the front office thought it was a bad look for Wade and Butler to call out the team publicly at midseason, Butler indicated what was said at the time was pretty much spot-on.

‘‘Yeah, I don’t regret anything,’’ Butler said. ‘‘We don’t talk about it, but everybody is playing their role, everybody is doing what they’re supposed to do. That’s all you can ask.’’

Follow me on Twitter @suntimes_hoops.

Email: jcowley@suntimes.com

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