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The Case for Jimmy Butler

Let me start this off by saying I personally think Jimmy Butler has played outstanding for the role that he has been thrust into as the sixth man on a Marquette Golden Eagles team and has not taken a step back since Midnight Madness tipped off. I tend to think some people agree with this statement, but some people have not jumped on the bandwagon of the 6’5” forward from Texas. As for some who believe guys like Pat Hazel and Joseph Fulce should be logging more minutes, it’s a matter of efficiency to me. For role players off the bench, I want to know who can make the most out of the minutes they get. +/- is making its way back into the NBA just as it is in the NHL (which we don’t talk about here) but I didn’t find anything in regards to college. So I decided to look at how efficient Marquette players are based on a formula John Hollinger of ESPN invented to find this out. He calls it the Player Efficiency Rating (PER) and it’s defined as such:

“PER takes into account positive accomplishments, such as field goals, free throws, 3-pointers, assists, rebounds, blocks and steals, and negative ones, such as missed shots, turnovers and personal fouls. The formula adds positive stats and subtracts negative ones through a statistical point value system. The rating for each player is then adjusted to a per-minute basis so that, for example, substitutes can be compared with starters in playing time debates. It is also adjusted for the team’s pace. In the end, one number sums up the players’ statistical accomplishments for that season.”

However, Hollinger’s formula takes forever and well I just don’t have that time. So I used another formula that I found online that was much simpler and in the end, when compared to Hollinger’s numbers, were all within 1.00 of the actual formula used. The formula is as follows:

[(FGM x 85.910)
+ (Steals x 53.897)
+ (3PTM x 51.757)
+ (FTM x 46.845)
+ (Blocks x 39.190)
+ (Offensive_Reb x 39.190)
+ (Assists x 34.677)
+ (Defensive_Reb x 14.707)
– (Foul x 17.174)
– (FT_Miss x 20.091)
– (FG_Miss x 39.190)
– (TO x 53.897) ]
x (1 / Minutes)

Marquette PER as of 2/11

Above is Marquette’s “rotational players'” PER and after calculating it for everyone, a few things jumped out at me. First and foremost, Wesley Matthews is severely underrated in how good he really is. A lot of Marquette fans know his skill and his ability to take over stretches of games but to the rest of the nation he is seen as Jerel McNeal’s underscore rather than his sidekick. Getting back on topic, looking at the PER of Butler made me realize just how important he is to the team and the sixth man ability that he brings. Most of the time Butler comes in for Dwight Burke and vice versa (as seen by their minutes per game adding up to 36, basically the whole game), meaning that Butler is playing either the 4 or the 5 depending on who Lazar guards. Marquette considers themselves a 3 guard, 2 forward team but most opponents that they go up against have a predominant big man as well as a power forward that more likely than not is going to be bigger than the 6’5” Butler or the 6’6” Hayward. The role that Butler has taken on defensively is to use his height and long arms to deny the low post. While he still gets beat off the dribble more than he should, he has improved from the beginning of the year and now does a better job getting in front of his ball when beaten. He also closes out very well like most defenders on Marquette do, using his long arms and decent jumping ability to contest shots as seen by his 10 blocks on the year, with 4 coming in the last 3 games. Overall, Butler is being asked to play out of position on defense, just like any “big man” for the Golden Eagles does, on any given night and has done a fine job at it. He has become more physical on defense and has improved his speed, but he’s also on the court because of the bonus he brings on offense.

I will admit, at the beginning of the year as I watched Jimmy Butler, I wondered if he even knew that the goal of an offensive possession was to score. He would give the ball up as soon as he caught it and wouldn’t allow for the play to be created whether it was letting a screen form or waiting for a guy to be in position. As the year has progressed, Butler has become so much more aggressive at attacking the basket as seen by his free throws attempted which have increased by month (1.5 in Nov., 2.8 in Dec., 3.0 in Jan., 5.3 in Feb.) His assist to turnover ratio is a manageable 1.07 which ranks 4th among the eight rotational players and remember, he is playing as a forward in a guard-oriented offense so the assists will fluctuate from game to game. His 4.3 points per game may not look like much on paper, but remember who he is on the court with. We already said he comes in for Burke, meaning he is usually playing with the Big 4 of Wes, Jerel, Nic’ and Lazar. He is clearly the 5th option among those players and arguably still the 5th when Maurice Acker enters the game. Per 40 minutes, Butler averages 10.4 points per game and 7.5 rebounds per game, both which rank better than Hazel and Burke. Once again going back to efficiency, Butler has plenty of it as seen by that statistic. Another way number 33 is contributing on the offensive end is the matchup problem that he creates offensively. Marquette’s curse of size is also their gift in that offensively with Butler in, they essentially have 4 guards in the game with Lazar Hayward who is a threat from downtown as well. When you have a team that can put five men on the perimeter, with slashers like James, Matthews, and McNeal, as well as having jump shooters in Hayward and Butler, it’s almost unstoppable.

Hopefully Buzz has seen the light on Jimmy Butler as seen by his increase in minutes, which has risen from 15.8 the first three months to 21 minutes in February. He has got a long way to go in terms of the raw talent he shows. I’d still like to see him be more confident in his jump shot at times and he has room to get quicker on defense and add a little muscle to his frame, but overall he has stepped into a role at Marquette that fits him perfectly. The haters need to remember that he isn’t Jerel McNeal and he isn’t Wesley Matthews. He is a first year player (look at how Fulce and Otule have played to see just how good he is) that was thrown into playing time right away and, in my eyes, has succeeded.


February 11, 2009 - Posted by | Basketball, College Basketball, Marquette Golden Eagles | , ,


  1. Hi Mark,
    It’s Archana. Your blog makes me wish I could understand the complexities of sports better.
    Hope you are well!

    Comment by blufolk | February 11, 2009 | Reply

  2. wesley matthews 4 president

    Comment by wesmatthews4mvp | July 13, 2009 | Reply

  3. […] be a star, but his leadership skills will truly be tested this year, which in end will tell how Jimmy Butler will be remembered at […]

    Pingback by Marquette Basketball 2010-2011 « Kevin Shanley's Blog | September 30, 2010 | Reply

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