Jared Butler sent waves of excitement throughout Jazz fandom with his dazzling play during the Jazz weekend scrimmage open to fans via zoom.
The 40th pick of this year’s draft showed a tight handle, crafty moves, a solid IQ, and smooth shooting. One highlight in particular demonstrated all of these skills and got fans blowing up the zoom chat:
After taking on Joe Ingles, the Jazz franchise 3P GOAT, in a shooting contest during training camp, we can see Mike Conley took notice and was marking Butler out to the 3P line. Jared had plenty of wiggle to get into the lane and was savvy enough to deter Rudy with the threat of a pass and neutralize the big with the high bank layup.
We’d be remiss not to caution fans that highlights from a scrimmage are premature at best. However, it was one of the few visual confirmations of what many have been saying for weeks:
Shortly after drafting Butler, Jazz GM Justin Zanik commented, “The thing that pops is his versatility... He has the skillset, the physicality, the demeanor to handle those new things really well... He’s going to be your favorite.”
On David Locke’s podcast Locked On Jazz, Athletic reporter Tony Jones remarked of Butler, “I actually think he’s going to play a role on this team. I think they need to get him as far up to speed as they can during camp and preseason.”
Ahead of draft night, the Baylor product fresh of a National Championship was set to come off the boardat the end of the first round, with some projecting him at a high of #11 and a low of #34.
SLC Dunk’s own Calvin Chappell broke down Jared’s prospects ahead of the draft, remarking that “[the Jazz would] have to try to move up a few spots” if they wanted him. With few assets at the time, moving up was tricky. Fortunately, the Jazz were patient.
Health concerns sent up red flags on draft night and did enough to scare teams away from Butler. Reports surfaced indicating the Jazz were targeting Butler in the first round but read the draft correctly enough to trade back to the second round, accumulate two extra 2nd round picks (one used to trade for Eric Paschall), and still ended up with their pick.
Shortly thereafter, Butler confirmed he’s clear to play and Jazz GM confirmed there’d be no restrictions or ramp up required.
I am fully healthy and cleared to play in the NBA! Out of an abundance of care, the NBA is incredibly thorough in vetting the health of every player during the pre-Draft process and throughout our careers. I am forever grateful that their comprehensive and strict health analysis— Jared Butler (@J_Hooper11) July 17, 2021
As Zach Buckley of Bleacher Report put it, “the Jazz just collected the night’s biggest steal... He could spend a decade-plus in the league and a lot of that time in someone’s starting lineup. That’s tremendous value at pick No. 40.”
Utah signed Jared Butler to a two-year, guaranteed deal worth $2.5M, per Spotrac. Now the question is, who will Jared be in his first two seasons?
Considering Butler’s likely role, style of play, and experience, here are 3 NBA comps for his first two seasons in the NBA:
(Note: there are an infinite number of outcomes for a player’s career. We chose 3 outcomes and looked to approximate the kind of player Butler would be through 2 seasons. This does not indicate an absolute ceiling, floor, or expected outcome.)
Malcolm Brogdon - 75%tile outcome (optimistic)
Brogdon wasn’t always a starting PG and fringe All-Star. Drafted in the second round and a four year career at Virginia, Brogdon was setup to be a solid role player from day one.
He proceeded to win rookie of the year in what many have called the weakest class in some time. Hindsight tells us he was a lot better than many gave him credit for, specifically his positive impact on the team.
In his first two seasons, Malcolm Brogdon was a +0.7 total RAPTOR .
Inspired by SLC Dunk site manager James Hansen, an optimistic outlook on Butler may just be Malcolm Brogdon.
He was a good shooter in college and that translated right away. He was also a solid defender and was comfortable contributing in many areas. Sound a lot like what we’ve heard from Jazz and media personnel?
Brogdon also played a good deal more than Butler is projected to, though we can scale his numbers to per 25 possessions, a decent approximation for Butler’s playing time when in the rotation:
5.1 PTS, 1.4 REB, 1.7 AST, 0.5 STL, 0.1 BLK, 0.7 TOV with +1.1% adjusted TS
In an ideal world for the Jazz, Butler’s shooting translates immediately and he’s able to positively impact the team in many areas every time he steps on the floor. In such a scenario, we’d be seeing starter level potential from Butler early.
Jalen Brunson - 50%tile outcome (average)
If Jared Butler sported Jalen Brunson’s numbers through his first two seasons as a backup PG, we should be elated.
While not as gaudy and impressive as Malcolm Brogdon (no one’s expecting Brunson to have fringe All-Star seasons anytime soon), there’s no denying that Jalen Brunson is a key cog in the Dallas rotation and a tremendously valuable release valve and compliment to Luka Doncic.
During his first two seasons, Jalen Brunson posted a +0.5 total RAPTOR.
Jalen Brunson’s per 25 possession numbers in a role most similar to what’s projected for Jared Butler come out to:
5.3 PTS, 1.4 REB, 1.9 AST, 0.3 STL, 0.0 BLK, 0.7 TOV with a -1.1% TS.
In an average scenario, Jared Butler’s shooting doesn’t translate immediately but he does enough around the edges to positively impact the team when he’s on the floor, giving confidence in his future as an elite backup PG.
Kendrick Nunn - 25%tile outcome (pessimistic)
Some may scoff at a Kendrick Nunn comparison, specifically citing the impressive rookie campaign he had for a good Miami Heat team. However, closer inspection reminds us that he had a 24% usage. His tremendous stats were a function of volume.
Furthermore, that volume didn’t contribute very positively and subsequently trickled into the following season. Anyone in the NBA can put up stats if they get to shoot enough, the question is if those stats lead to winning.
In his first two seasons, Kendrick Nunn had a total RAPTOR of -0.9.
Nunn played a great deal in his first two seasons, but if his numbers were scaled to more of a backup PG role, they would have had per 25 possession averages of the following:
6.3 PTS, 1.2 REB, 1.3 AST, 0.4 STL, 0.1 BLK, 0.7 TOV with -0.8% adjusted TS
In a bad case scenario for the Jazz, Butler puts up numbers without actually winning and his stellar efficiency from college takes a while to translate.
Jared Butler is going to play this year. Mike Conley and Donovan Mitchell are going to be load managed to one extent or the other. Furthermore, if Butler is as impactful as Brogdon or Brunson in their first two seasons, there’s no need to push the starting guards to more than 32 min a night.
There’s every indication that the organization believes in and is looking to trust Butler. Not since Raul Neto did the Jazz have a solid, true backup PG. Despite Neto’s health and defensive limitations, we missed him greatly with their mutual parting.
Jared Butler is likely to give fans more highlights this season, but good Jared Butler may be an underrated component of keeping the Jazz elite in the regular season and keeping their stars healthy for the playoffs.