Free Agent Profile Series: Jimmy Butler

Welcome to the first installment of the Free Agent Profile Series where we’ll cover current Philadelphia 76er: Jimmy Butler

The goal of this series is to enable Lakers fans to have an in-depth look at how potential free agents integrate within the current Laker roster.

In each section we’ll cover what Butler does well and how he fits within the current Lakers roster.

Evaluation Method

  1. Shot Distribution – In this section we’ll take a look at where he shoots well from.
  2. Scoring Preferences – Using data and video, we can get a better idea of how he gets his looks
  3. Defense Synergy – Using visuals and metrics we can get a better idea of Jimmy’s impact as an individual and team defender

Shot Distribution

Lets take a look at Jimmy’s shot distribution of the course of this year and last year (I included last year’s shot chart for Jimmy as he was much more integrated with the Wolves then he has been with the Sixers)

Jimmy had a worse shooting season across the board in 2019 compared to 2018. Aside from his shooting performance though, it looks like his shot frequency volume stayed relatively consistent.

Jimmy clearly prefers the right hand side of the the court. Based on his shot volume, you can telegraph exactly whether Jimmy is a threat to score based on what side of the court he is on.

Butler does well at the rim and in the restricted area and in the 2017-18 season did particularly well on corner and above the break right wing threes

Next we want to take a look at the shot distribution of our three main scorers by volume: LeBron James, Kyle Kuzma, and Anthony Davis:

When we take a look at the shot frequency for all three of our scorers there is a clear difference some of what we see on the tape is verified by the shot chart visuals:

  • All three scorers do better than league average in the restricted area
  • LeBron as expected scored effectively from a lot of areas but looking at his shot volume, it looks like his volume was mainly from beyond the arc or at the rim (like Kuzma). He clearly shot better at the top and right wing side of the arc compared to the left.
  • Davis’ shot volume occurs around the rim and right outside of the restricted area. He tends to avoid long twos but shoots particularly well directly in front of the rim. This telegraphs his usage in screen and roll sets as he was utilized heavily as a roll man and pick and pop option.
  • Kuzma’s shot volume this year came from beyond the arc but his poor shooting this year is evident as he was way below league average anywhere outside of the top of the key

Jimmy doesn’t have conflicting area’s of preference when it comes to his shot frequency volume. He is a capable rim attacker and clearly prefers a specific side of the court which would make it easier to scheme around for a good coach. If he can replicate some of his quality corner three shooting from 2017-18, he would be an improvement over our current roster in that area.

Scoring Preferences

Let’s take a look at what sort of plays Jimmy preferred to score out of by taking a look at the data:

The percentages above represent the frequency of that specific play type out of overall possessions Butler score or helped score out of. The colors to the boxes represent whether Jimmy was above average (green), average (yellow), or below average (red) in his percentile ranks against the rest of the league.

In the graphic above we can see that Butler was comfortable operating as a pick and roll ball handler but wasn’t in the upper ranks of percentile.

Some of that has to do with his teammates but overall in his next three preferred methods, Butler was in the higher percentile ranks (70+)

One of Jimmy’s unique traits is how he manages to remain composed on his drives to the rim. Because of his penchant for physicality and overall ruggedness, playing through traffic is when Butler is at his most comfortable.

On the three plays below, watch how Jimmy artfully navigates through the paint and never loses his composure when attacking the rim in this screen and roll situation

In this next sequence Butler side steps to take away the defensive angle on Drummond who isn’t fully committed to the drop coverage

On on this last sequence Jimmy doesn’t disengage Embiid’s screen until he knows his defender is behind him and then euro steps Ibaka into a layup

When we take a look at Jimmy’s jump shot selection almost all of them are on the right side of the court which we can see here

Jimmy Butler’s Jumpshot Chart 2018-19

All of his made jumpshots tend to be out on the three point line and he gets many of them coming off of different kinds of screen action.

On this play Jimmy takes a dribble hand off from Muscala, turns and squares up to drain the three

And on this sequence Jimmy continues to slide lower into the corner staying at the same level of the ball and eventually gets a look in the corner

On this last sequence Jimmy gets a screen from Reddick and gets set up by Embiid out of the post for a corner three

Butler really doesn’t try force himself onto an offense for the most part and is smart enough to not try and play outside of his comfort areas. Not known as a shooter, Butler has a respectable jumpshot as long as he shoots from his preferred areas.

Defensive Synergy

While Butler doesn’t carry the same kind of offensive breadth that some of the other free agents do, his defensive motor isn’t lacking to any degree

Jimmy ranks 2nd in steals and 9th in deflections while defending the 7th most shots on average per game among forwards. While much of Butler’s tenacity is tied to his personality, it should be noted that his defensive counting stats translate as well.

Like other well known ballhawks Paul George and Jrue Holiday, Jimmy displays an awesome sense for tracking passing paths and routinely jumps passes that lead to points on the other end.

On the play below, Jimmy retreats after realizing Harrell has to pass the ball from the baseline and tracks the flight path of Harrell’s pass which leads to fastbreak points on the other end

On this play Jimmy roams into the painted area and saves an easy dunk after his teammate gets blown by on defense. Jimmy makes this play despite being far away from the play on his assignment.

And on this last sequence Butler shows that same defensive timing in waiting until the right moment to pounce on a ball when its in the air

What makes Butler’s defensive acumen so good isn’t just his timing and ability to attack the ball in flight. Butler also hustles on offense immediately after generating a turnover allowing for advantages on fastbreaks which result in easy scoring opportunities.

With Butler returning to playoffs with the Sixers, his value will translate greater when the games get tighter against tougher opponents.

While Jimmy’s excess mileage is a cause for concern, his work ethic and effort shouldn’t be. An outspoken leader, Butler’s leadership and accountability may be just the type of personality that pairs well with LeBron on the roster.

More importantly, Butler may just be the type of ‘hardened veteran’ that can help the Lakers through tough situations while also freeing up LeBron’s responsibilities on the defensive end.