Who Is?: Jimmy Butler

The 2011 offseason is finally here and the first step to winning the 2012 title is the NBA Draft. With less than a week left until Draft Day, Orlando Magic Daily will profile some players the Magic might be seeking with the 53rd overall pick.

Jimmy Butler’s story might be more impressive than his play at this point. His perseverance and ability to succeed despite some very very long odds is a positive that has impressed many of the brass in NBA front offices. Butler bounced around all his life before finally finding a home in Milwaukee with Marquette. There he grew and developed into a stellar player, but one that still had a lot of NBA question marks.

Butler is all over the place on mock drafts, from late first round to mid-second round. It does not feel likely he will be available at 53, but if he is, Orlando would have to jump on him.

The 6-foot-7 forward averaged 15.7 points per game and shot 49.0 percent from the floor. He added 6.1 rebounds per game too and showed a knack for playing defense, slowing down likely first round pick Marshon Brooks on a few occasions. He won the MVP at the Portsmouth camp for seniors and scouts seem to really like him.

So what is holding Butler back? Why does it even make a little sense for him to be available at 53? Again, I don’t think he will be, but the fact he does nothing spectacular and is not a developed 3-point shooter likely has something to do with it. He bided his time at Marquette, learning from coach Buzz Williams and waiting for his opportunity to play. In 2010 and 2011 he delivered in a big way for Marquette.

And he certainly won’t be asked to carry a team if he gets to the NBA. Scouts don’t seem to like to spend picks on guys that could be very successful as role players. Butler certainly fits that story.

The Good: Butler has been through a lot and persevered. He is not going to let a bad decision, some struggles or anything else get him down. That is what he really showed at Marquette. He came to Milwaukee in 2008 and struggled, averaging 5.6 points per game. But he showed marked improvement getting to 14.7 points per game in 2010 and 15.7 points per game his senior year.

In the process he obviously became more of a leader, finishing second on the team in scoring and rebounding last year. He is not a superstar, but is clearly a guy who can contribute and fill whatever role his team needs.

Butler has been brought along a lot slower than some of the other prospects in this draft. But he has improved as his role has expanded. His field goal shooting was down slightly this year, but that might be because he took more shots. Butler shot better than 50 percent in his other two years at Marquette and only cracked 300 total field goal attempts his senior year.

That ability to be an efficient shooter is something NBA scouts have to like, especially if he is in a more limited role. Scouts have to like more that he is willing to take a step back from scoring to be a team and one-on-one defender. Those are the types of players that stay in the league from the second round.

 

The Bad: Butler is still an improving 3-point shooter and he will have to find that range likely to get consistent playing time in the NBA. He shot 50 percent, but just 16 for 32 from long range in 2010. In 2011 he took a lot more 3-point shots (58) but made only 20. He does not seem willing to take a bunch of 3-pointers. That might be just him knowing his own game and not trying to play outside of himself, but that is something Butler will have to improve on to get a more expanded role in the NBA.

Butler is not going to be able to be a stretch four and is certainly a three. He has the defensive capability to stick with those guys and has the body and athleticism to do that. But offensively, it feels like he might play like a four. Expanding that range is going to be key to his success.

There is not a lot special about Butler. He does a lot of things solidly, but scouts don’t seem interested in the guy that fits nicely as a role player. They want the player who can make an impact. Butler is going to fit in somewhere, but not necessarily be an impact player. That, for better or worse, is working against Butler. He likely needs the right situation and right system to succeed.

Draft Sites Say:

Tyler Ingle, NBADraft.net: “A well-rounded forward with great qualities for a future role-player … Solid athlete with nice overall quickness … Great length. Good all-around player, but lacks any one great skill… Fits the “jack of all trades, master of none” mold … Not a stand-out athlete.”

Jonathan Givony, DraftExpress: “Looking through the rest of this class of forwards, a few things stand out. First is how well Jimmy Butler seems to rank in virtually every category, starting with overall offensive efficiency (6th), and continuing with turnover rate (2nd best), free throw rate (2nd) and transition scoring (2nd). If he can improve his ability to make shots with his feet set (13th, 36% FG) he will likely carve out a long career for himself considering how staunch of a defender he is.”


 

Chad Ford, ESPN: “Butler averaged just 5.6 points in 19.6 minutes a game for the Golden Eagles, coming off the bench behind two future NBA players, Wes Matthews and Lazar Hayward. Again, a difficult situation became a positive experience. … By his senior season, Butler had shed the ‘scorer’ label and drew attention from NBA scouts because of his versatility. He could still score — Butler averaged 15.7 points in 2010-11 — but he could also rebound, handle the ball and defend multiple positions. He played without ego. He was a winner.”

Josh Robbins, Orlando Sentinel: “Played one season of junior-college basketball followed by three seasons at Marquette. . . . Averaged 15.7 points and 6.1 rebounds per game as a senior. . . . Named the MVP of the 2011 Portsmouth Invitational Tournament, an important event for draft prospects. . . . Went 16-for-32 (50.0 percent) from 3-point range as a junior but slipped to 20-for-58 (34.5 percent) as a senior.”

Chris Forsberg, ESPNBoston: “Celtics coach Doc Rivers hasn’t met a Marquette alumn he hasn’t liked, so Butler certainly has that working in his favor. The fact that he’s got solid size, can add depth at the wing position, and is regarded as a solid defender, only aids his cause. Originally pegged as a potential late second-round pick, Butler is drawing so much interest now he might not last beyond early second round (meaning Boston’s best chance at him might be at No. 25, or trading into the early second round).”

Charles F. Gardner, Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel: “Butler played three seasons at Marquette after arriving from Tyler (Texas) Junior College. Following the Golden Eagles’ run to the Sweet 16 in the NCAA Tournament this spring, Butler was considered a late second-round pick or maybe a player who would not be selected in the June 23 draft. But his stock soared after he played well in the Portsmouth Invitational in early April and was named most valuable player in the tournament. Now Butler is considered a candidate to be selected early in the second round, possibly in the 35-45 range.”

Final Thoughts: Butler is a player that is going to find a fit. He has the motor and desire to be successful. He wants it and is able to forget personal goals and do things for the team. He has a lot he needs to improve on and he needs to prove he can play with the best of the NBA. But someone is going to give him a chance and I don’t think he will disappoint (effort-wise at least).

He feels like an early second round pick. If he falls to the Magic, they better jump on him.

Also Meet: David LightyAndrew GoudelockAmu Saaka, E’Twaun Moore.

Photo via DayLife.com.

Philip Rossman-Reich

About Philip Rossman-Reich

Philip Rossman-Reich is the managing editor for Crossover Chronicles and Orlando Magic Daily. You can follow him on twitter @OMagicDaily

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