"My rule was I wouldn't recruit a kid if he had grass in front of his house.
That's not my world. My world was a cracked sidewalk." —Al McGuire

Friday, September 10, 2010

The case for Jimmy F. Butler as the Big East POY

This article from Jeff Eisenberg really got our juices flowing earlier this week as did this scouting review with Mike Gansey. In both of these articles Jimmy F. Butler was named the "Most Underrated Player" in the Big East.

One is anomaly, two is a trend. As the start of the season gets closer we are sure that Butler's name will consistently be placed in the "most underrated" category, yet he will be ignored in far too many pre-season evaluations of the Big East's best players.

No offense to Jeff and his good intentions, but underrated lists are a back-handed compliment to a player as seasoned and productive as Jimmy F. Butler. Throwing Butler on a list of underrated players is nothing more than code for 'east coast bias' or 'MU is not a traditional Big East power.' Simply put, Jimmy F. Butler should be discussed as a logical choice for the pre-season Big East Player of the Year.

Jimmy F. Butler for BE POY!

For the first time in recent memory the race for Big East Player of the Year appears to be wide-open. The league lacks a sure-fire NBA lottery pick amongst its proven upper-classmen and instead offers a host of talented players who are statistically comparable and will be expected to take major leaps forward this winter.

Let's look at the potential competition. Some of the candidates being tossed around the interwebs are 6'3 senior Austin Freeman (GU), 6'1 senior Chris Wright (GU), 6'2 junior Ashton Gibbs (Pitt), 6'1 senior Chris Wright (Nova), 6'1 junior Kemba Walker (UConn), 6'8 junior Kevin Jones (WVU), and 6'7 junior Kris Joseph (SU).

How does Butler compare to the other POY candidates?

The chart above shows the players across different categories, with the average at the bottom. The player with the best comparables by category is highlighted in green.

Let's start where Jimmy F. Butler is the best in the entire Big East. Out of the group listed above Butler led all players in field goal percentage (0.530) last season. Butler got to the line and made the most free throws amongst this peer group. JFB also had the lowest turnover rate (technically tied with Gibbs above but better according to Pomeroy). All of which leads to JFB being the most efficient returning player in the Big EAST (ORtg of 128.5). This should not come as a surprise, since Butler was the conference's most efficient offensive performer last season too.

Back to the statistical comparison. Butler was also the second best rebounder among the other potential candidates and had the second most blocks (both behind West Virginia's Kevin Jones).

Now for the intangibles; we believe Jimmy Butler is the Big East's best clutch performer. Why don't we revisit his two game winning shots from last year? First he hit the game winning shot at UConn.

Then JFB delivered in overtime, on the road at St. John's.

Plus, don't forget how:

- Butler scored 5 of his 13 total points against SHU last year in overtime & assisted on the only MU 3-pointer of the extra period.
- Butler's breakaway dunk at Cincy in the waning moments was the backbreaker for the Bearcats in that game.
- Butler scored 5 of MU's final 7 points to seal the win at Providence.

Where does Butler not stand out as the best in the Big EAST?

For starters in points per game, where JFB's average of 14.7 ppg puts him behind Freeman, Wright, and Gibbs but ahead of Fisher, Walker, Jones, Joseph. The highest returning average in this group is Freeman's 16.5 ppg. Butler is also also in middle of this pack on assists, steals, and player fouls -- though he averaged more assists per game than Gibbs, a guard, and more steals per game than Freeman or Gibbs.

Finally, JFB was below average on total usage during his junior season, which simply means he just didn't get enough shots while playing second fiddle to Lazar Hayward. This season Butler will be asked to step up his total usage and lead the Warriors. You don't think Butler can step up? Consider that last year he upped his scoring from 5.6 to 14.7 ppg, and his offensive efficiency only dropped from 131.2 to 128.5 -- the best in the Big East, both years.

That's right. JFB was the Big East's most efficient offensive player as both a sophomore and junior. How good has Jimmy been at Marquette? He was fourth in the country in this category as a sophomore and seventh in the nation as a junior.

Again, why is this guy popping up on underrated lists?

Is Jimmy F. Butler the best player in the Big East?

It's too early to say, and that's the point. There is nobody in the list of potential candidates that is clearly the best player. The race for BE POY is wide open, and JFB is in the race. We believe JFB begins the race in the pole position but few seem to agree with us.

Let's stop talking about Butler being underrated and start talking about Jimmy F. Butler as the Big East Player of the Year.

No comments: