In the latest edition of 'P.I. Pulse,' Pro Insight's Aneesh Namburi conducts a deep dive analysis on undefeated Baylor's offensive engine, Jared Butler:
Jared Butler has been one of the better players in college basketball over the past two seasons, and is the offensive leader for the Baylor Bears, one of the two remaining undefeated teams in the country. A potent shooter who possesses an elite handle and has significantly improved his playmaking this season, Butler seems to be a clear cut rotation player, with the upside to turn into a real guard creator in the league. Below is an in-depth scouting report that covers every aspect of his game and how it translates to the NBA, where his strengths lie in addition to potential areas of improvement.
Date of Birth 08/25/2000
Weight 195 lbs.
High: Starting caliber guard creator next to wing initiator. Versatile off-ball threat, with the ability to shoot off movement or from standstill. Proficient in side actions, improves vertical pop+finishing enough to work on-ball consistently. Wins from handle, shooting, and playmaking. Excellent transition player based on speed and decision making. Solid positional defender. High level playmaker off the ball and very good team defender. Can defend opposing guards and smaller wings on the ball, and can switch situationally against big wings, forwards, and bigs.
Median: Low-usage scorer/6th-man type. Versatile off-ball threat, with the ability to shoot off movement or from standstill. Proficient in side actions, can work on-ball actions occasionally against guards based on handle, shooting, and playmaking, but flounders against bigger players who can use their physical tools to contain. Excellent transition player based on speed and decision making. Solid positional defender. Playmaker off the ball. Makes smart rotations. Can defend within position group and occasionally move up to smaller wings, but will need help against 3-5.
Low: Rotation guard. Off-ball scoring threat (standstill+movement). Ability to run some side actions due to handle, pull-up ability, and playmaking. Struggles operating main actions due to limitations getting downhill, strength, vertical explosion. Tougher to get shot off against bigger defenders due to lower release. Excellent transition threat due to speed and decision making. Average positional defender who can create plays off the ball and make smart rotations, but limited to defending within position.
Average to above-average athlete, but has some traits that boost his NBA standing. Butler possesses high-level balance as well as core and lower body strength — this allows him to maintain a low center of gravity. While Butler has definitely added upper body strength onto his frame to better accept contact at the rim, he is still on the skinnier side without much vertical explosion. An improved burst over the off-season has helped him blow by defenders more often in 2020-21, rather than almost solely relying on his handle which can tend to slow down the game. Consequently, he still has a tendency to shy away from contact and resort to finesse/adjustment finishes (which he is very good at, by the way), a big reason why his free throw rate has not taken a leap despite the improvements. Defensively, Butler’s quickness, as well as his lateral mobility and flexibility (in the hip area) allow him to navigate both on and off ball screens and slide with his man, but his size limits him in terms of scaling up to bigger players, despite his best efforts.
Excellent balance + low center of gravity; boosts his advanced handle, gives him better shift; secondarily helps him succeed as an off-ball mover
Excellent core, lower body strength; seems to have the frame to add muscle
Sub-average to average vertical athleticism; in combination with frame, a big reason why he uses many finesse/adjustment finishes and does not get to the FT line often
Improved burst over the off-season, still not great but passable
Solid hip flexibility; Able to navigate around screens on defense; for the most part, lower body is consistently square on movement shots
Butler is one of the more dynamic offensive guards in the draft class, with the ability to provide value in a myriad of roles to NBA teams down the road. The first thing that stands out when watching Butler is his elite handle, which he uses to create space for his jumpers or break down defenses (specifically opposing bigs) in the pick-and-roll. He is able to consistently generate paint touches, but due to his lack of vertical explosion and physicality at the rim, he struggles finishing at the rim. Over this season, Butler has taken a massive leap as a playmaker, quelling concerns of whether he could be a lead guard at the next level. Butler is also a high-level shot maker, possessing a potent jumper both in catch-and-shoot situations as well as off the dribble, which boosts his versatility within NBA lineups.
45/79 within restricted area this season, has made improvements but still somewhere in the range of below-average to average
Possesses great touch, especially on adjustment finishes; helps take away some of the contact aversion, subpar upper body strength
Was almost allergic to contact in previous two seasons
Does not have great vertical pop; inconsistent but getting better, in tandem w/ slight contact aversion FTR stays low
Has the ability to get paint touches with ease and draws help
Smart enough to understand strengths/weaknesses and knows initial gravity draws in help, improves openness/ease of passing angles
1.312 PPP on 96 jump shots in HC (65.6% eFG)
3 years of high volume and good diet of variety + makes; slow uptick in effectiveness every year
No real issues on lower body mechanics
Upper body mechanics are relatively solid and very consistent/repeatable
Lower release is not a massive concern personally due to production (learned to adjust in order to generate clean looks), but maybe something to monitor down the line if he struggles early in the NBA
Feet are a little narrow when getting into shots off movement, but solid numbers (.929 PPP on 14 possession this season, but 1.068 PPP on 44 possessions in 2019-20); has the ability to get insanely low, specifically coming off curls
Arguably the best handle in this draft class
Innate ability to maintain low center of gravity
Has just about every kind of dribble combo in his bag, keeps the ball on a string
Exceptional poise with the ball in his hands
Under-the-radar skill: gets separation/shake repeating the same move multiple times but at varying paces
On Ball (Pick-and-Roll, Isolation)
Highly intelligent PnR operator
Excellent understanding of how to create advantage off screen, whether it be using/rejecting/snaking screen or breaking down defender w/ handle
Tough running drop coverage against him, will punish D with runners/floaters
Probably best to run a show and recovery, have weak side help to deter rim attempts
Much improved playmaker, no longer limited to designed reads
Has been able to manipulate help defenders much better this season
Can hit both roller and shooters w/ precision + timing
Bad news for most bigs on switches, will get them shifting and turning directions that didn’t seem to be possible; has a high level feel of reading defender’s weight/directional pressure
Off Ball (Catch-and-Shoot, Movement Shooting, Cutting)
1.51 PPP on 49 C&S possessions in HC (75.5% eFG)
1.333 PPP on 75 spot-up possessions (70.9% eFG); 38 possessions no dribble jumper, 1.474 PPP (73.7% eFG)
Excellent transition player; speed + pull-up puts pressure on D, also can find open teammates on the move; 1.212 PPP on 66 transition possessions (69.8% eFG)
Solid sample size of movement shooting productivity; lower body a little narrow, can attack coming off pindowns/curl or shoot immediately
Small sample size as cutter in the half-court, has IQ + awareness to project positively; 1.000 PPP on 4 possessions as cutter (78.6% eFG)
Vastly improved playmaker
AST% to USG% ratio greater than 1
Seems to prefer 2 hand flicks when hitting weak side
Primarily hits shooters rather than interior passes, but able to do both effectively
Gets a lot of attention driving baseline, able to find open teammates while in a crowd
Manipulates defense using shift/threat of help based on handle
Very few bad decisions in terms of shot selection
While it is unlikely Butler will ever turn into a high impact player on defense at the highest level, his instincts/timing/positioning, quickness, and constant willingness to compete should make him somewhere near a net-neutral, overall. Butler’s energy and twitchiness allow him to stay with opposing guards, using his hip flexibility/mobility to navigate around screens. He can stay low and in a stance, which helps him stay attached to his man. Butler’s best defensive role is guarding off-ball shooters, where he can navigate around screens, and use his IQ to correctly oscillate between staying home and executing his help responsibilities. He has shown the ability to disrupt the offense and create turnovers, using his quick hands and innate timing to take advantage of offensive mistakes. Butler will likely never be able to be a real switch defender, but think teams could possibly scram switch to mitigate this issue.
On Ball (Isolation, Pick-and-Roll)
Competitive against opposing guards, will not make things easy
Excellent lateral mover, ability to flip hips and change directions
Consistently in a stance, lower center of gravity allows him to stay with matchup
Does not get moved off spots easily, however might struggle against bigger lead guards (Holiday, Murray, Brogdon, Fultz etc.) due to general size advantage
Hip flexibility allows him to navigate screens well
Quick enough to go under and recover back out to BH for contest
Competes in over coverage, even if hit by screen will try to scramble back to man quickly
Likely not a switch candidate unless a guard-guard PnR
Off Ball and Team Defense
Excellent defensive playmaker for a smaller guard; 6.5% stock percentage
Quick hands to take away from poor handles
Does not play passing lanes too much, but recognizes blind spots and consistently makes the necessary read to knock the ball loose or generate a steal
Consistently in the right position off-ball; does a great job tagging rollers when weak side, giving those quick one-step fake stunts when in a 2-on-1 situation backside against shooters off swing
Other (Rim Protection, Rebounding, Switchability)
Solid weak side rim protection (great rotational timing), limited by lack of size/vertical explosion
Poor rebounder for guard in terms of numbers, a byproduct of Baylor system (guards get out and run early) as well as lack of size
Likely limited to being a guard defender; could switch onto smaller wings, will struggle, need help against taller wings and bigs
Butler has arguably been the best player in college basketball this season, and projects out as a rotation level guard as a minimum, with an outside shot to turn into a starting guard next to a wing initiator. He likely possesses the best handle in this draft class, and his ability to create advantage off either one cut moves as well as breaking guys down is almost unparalleled this draft cycle. Butler has been a consistent shooter on high volume throughout his college career, and projects as someone who can knock down shots off pull-ups, spot-up opportunities, and off movement despite a lower release (but not drastically so). The one major area Butler struggles is finishing around the hoop, as his slight frame makes it more difficult to draw fouls and finish against bigger/stronger players. Defensively, he is efficient in his movements to navigate different types of screens, and quick/twitchy enough to stay attached to his matchups and offer resistance in 1-on-1 scenarios, assuming that they do not have an inordinate strength advantage. It’s worth noting that Butler’s experience at Baylor has turned him into an excellent team defender, who’s constantly in the right position. He also possesses the understanding of when to be opportunistic and get his hands on the basketball. Butler will be exposed by bigger wings (and of course most bigs) and is most likely a two position defender, but it won’t be for a lack of effort/IQ.
Butler fits best on a mid-to-upper tier playoff team (IND, GSW, PHX, UTA are great examples), providing rotation value on a cheap contract. It seems to make the most sense to start him out near the end of the rotation as a fourth guard in his first year, blending with 3-4 starters in order to hide him a bit on defense and take away offensive responsibilities, attacking advantages created by the more potent options. Early in his career, Butler should be able to succeed spacing the floor and attacking advantage situations with his handle while holding his own against back up guards.
An appropriate value range for Butler is somewhere between picks 15 and 30. The good thing is that Butler's archetype makes him a fit for almost every NBA team, as it is easy to find room for competent defensive players who can provide value offensively both on and off the ball. That said, teams likely won’t be fighting over who gets to trade up for him. Butler, especially early on, projects as more of a floor-raiser on a second unit, helping narrow the gap between backups and starters, vs. a guy that’s moving a team up a tier in terms of championship viability.