Big news the other day, everyone. Jimmy Butler is interested in being traded to the New York Knicks! Well ... his first team is the Los Angeles Clippers and then the Knicks ... and also the Brooklyn
Afterthoughts Nets. Nevertheless, there is a very slim chance that Butler is either traded to the Knicks or comes in free agency, and there is a 100-percent chance that he is no longer a Timberwolf by the off-season (the latest). Man, remember when the NBA’s smartest fans and reputable local newsmen were clamoring for Tom Thibodeau to be the coach even if it meant that he needed to replace Phil Jackson as President of Basketball Operations? Good times.
Anywell, before we jump the gun and write out this lengthy article on Jimmy Butler’s fit with the New York Knicks’ roster, I thought it would make more sense to provide a statistical overview of Jimmy Butler by examining a sampling of key metrics to get an idea of what type of player he is. We know in a very broad sense that he is a Top 10–15 player in the league currently in his prime. We know that Butler was pretty much the engine that made this past Timberwolves team successful. And we know that Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns do not have the fondest of sentiments for the anthropomorphic asparagus from Veggie Tales.
Please note that the graphs below are images, and if you want to check out the interactive version of them, click the hyperlink title. It will take you to the graph’s Tableau page where you can get more information and detail on the statistics than just an image.
The scatter plot above details the Top 50 players in ESPN’s Real Plus Minus over the past three seasons. In the 2017–18 season, Butler was 4th in RPM posting an impressive 6.39 figure that was higher than Anthony Davis, LeBron James, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and Kevin Durant. Butler was ranked 7th in 2016–17 with an RPM of 6.62 and ranked 18th in 2015–16 with an RPM of 4.03. During these three seasons, Butler is also a net positive on both sides of the court. He’s a legitimate two-way player who not only improved from three seasons ago, but ranks out as a Top 10 player (Top 5 this past season) NBA player.
Speaking of defense, look at those isolation numbers! Butler, despite not being a volume defender in isolation, was the crème de la crème in that defensive area as he posted back-to-back points per possession allowed in above the 94th percentile. And what may be even more interesting is that as Butler’s pick-and-roll ball handler defensive frequency increased, his points per possession decreased. His highest volume and his lowest points allowed came this past season in Minnesota, playing with primarily Towns as the five.
You guys have to be salivating at the thought of having both French Sinatra and Jimmy Buckets harassing ball handlers on the perimeter as a healthy Unicorn anchors the paint.
Guys, Jimmy Butler is also really, really good at offense as well, especially off the ball and in transition. Just look at those points per possession of cuts! Despite what appears to be one of the weakest facets of his offensive game while also being one of his most frequent, Butler is still in the top 25 percent of the league in pick-and-roll ball handler efficiency as he never dropped below the 76th percentile over the past three seasons. He needs to also look to improve his isolation efficiency as well, but the data suggests that Butler is best playing more off the ball and as a secondary ball handler. You know, paired up with a player like Kyrie Irving.
Now to the seamless transition into Jimmy Butler’s ball-handling. The table above is a scatter plot segmented into the past three seasons. It details Butler’s hPPR (remember my improved AST:TOV metric?) and his usage percentage. What is promising about Butler handling the ball more is that as his usage increases, so does his hPPR. His values over this period of time consistently ranked him in the 85th percentile of all players in the NBA. Butler is a net positive playmaker who does not cost his team with turnovers frequency. He’s not Trey Burke or Jarrett Jack of last season — fourth and ninth in hPPR last season, respectively — but Mr. Buckets as a value perfect for a secondary playmaker.
Guys, you know that I wasn’t going to make graphs that did not include my own statistics, especially the infamous and polarizing zone true shooting. Is it self-indulging? Yeah, probably. Do I need to force it down people’s throats in order to justify the validity of the metrics as well as create an excuse to waste time even creating them since apparently I’m the only one that uses them? Oh, you know that’s the case.
In any event, Jimmy Butler’s shot profile is definitely below average. Like Trey Burke of last season, in spite of the shot profile, Butler was efficient at scoring, improving his true shooting percentage year-over-year. However, you still are going to want Butler to take a few more three-pointers.
Well, there you go. A quick overview of Jimmy Butler. Should the Knicks trade for him before he becomes a free agent and who should be expendable is a different discussion. All I’m going to say on the matter is that Jimmy Butler is really good at basketball.