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2021 NBA Draft scouting report: Jared Butler

NCAA Basketball: Final Four-Baylor vs Gonzaga Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Peachtree Hoops NBA Draft scouting report series winds down with a look at Jared Butler out of Baylor.

In recent memory, it’s hard for me to think of many prospects less divisive in the scouting community than Baylor guard Jared Butler. I don’t think I’ve talked to one draft watcher during this whole cycle who doesn’t like him, at least to some degree. And it’s not hard to see why. One of the best players in college basketball, Butler put a bow on a distinguished NCAA career with a victory over undefeated Gonzaga in the national title game.

Butler’s scouting profile is very straightforward; I would be surprised if he did not manage to be at least a rotation player. Possessing arguably the best handles in this draft class as his standout skill, Butler also boasts a strong all-around game: he’s a good shooter, a solid defender, and has improved as a playmaker as well.

With a polished NBA-ready skill set, Butler is typically described as a “high floor” prospect. The debate with Butler - to the extent that there is a debate with him at all - is how much draft capital should be allocated to his selection based on how much untapped growth he still has in him.

For many, Butler profiles as a back-up point guard in the Jalen Brunson impact category; basically as good as it gets for a non-starting guard. However, if indeed one might not see him as a starting caliber guard, it leaves questions about how much value there is in taking him over prospects which might have more perceived upside.

But in my view, this is a secondary consideration. Astute draft analysts know that outside of the lottery, a typical outcome for a prospect selected in the twenties is not exciting. Simply getting a player in this range who adds rotation value for years is a positive result. And few offer less downside than Butler.

Offensive Analysis:

  • Butler’s game starts with his superb handle. He has the ball on a string, able to create space for his shot as well as drive through traffic and keep his dribble alive in tight areas. This handle allows Butler to take full advantage of mismatches on the perimeter while also making him a challenge for anyone.
  • He shot 41% from three on 185 attempts in his final season at Baylor, as well as 38% over 558 attempts for his full college career. He ranked 98th percentile as a catch-and-shoot scorer per Synergy. He’s a confident shooter off the dribble as well, scoring 0.93 points per possession on all jump shots off the dribble according to Synergy data, good for 77th percentile on respectable volume.
  • Without great vertical pop, Butler was not a strong finisher at Baylor and will need to improve there in the NBA. However, given the overall strength of the rest of his offensive game, he can get by if he turns out to be a below average finisher.

Defensive Analysis:

  • Players 6’3 and under tend to not be impactful defenders in the NBA without advanced feel or physical tools, and Butler is no exception. With that said, Butler at any rate should not be a liability and should provide some value as a good on-ball defender who makes smart rotations and has awareness away from the ball.
  • There could be some blurred lines with his defensive role in the NBA. Having pretty good size for a point guard, teams will likely want to deploy him in two point guard lineups where it is more likely he’ll be tasked with guarding up a position. He’ll need to continue to make strength improvements to better compete physically.

Fit with the Hawks

Jared Butler is probably the low hanging fruit for Atlanta in this draft. Looking at what we believe their roster is likely to appear next season, I think most would opine that backup point guard is their biggest roster hole. This is something they could certainly fill in free agency, whether that entails using their MLE or another mechanism, but tapping a prospect like Butler in the draft offers a cheap, long-term option.

Another advantage to Butler is he has both the size and shooting to play alongside Trae Young in addition to backing him up; this means that he is not confined to simply a small role. Further, Butler is simply a winner. Like De’Andre Hunter, he won a national championship as perhaps the best player on his team. He’s the type of player on and off the court that you want in your organization. I know this can sound like platitudes but it’s genuinely true.

While he likely does not offer the upside of other picks in this range, Butler is probably an NBA player and probably a useful one. The Hawks could do much worse with their pick than the All American guard from Baylor.