Marquette’s Jimmy Butler Helping NBA Draft Stock, Named Portsmouth MVP

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Jimmy Butler may not overwhelm or particularly “wow” you with any specific aspect of his game.  That is part of the reason he was robbed and only received All-Big East Honorable Mentions this past season despite clearly being the most important all-around player for Marquette.

Still, Butler is starting to gain some steam as a NBA prospect after helping lead Marquette to the Sweet 16 and earning MVP honors at this weekend’s Portsmouth Invitational (a camp for college seniors where NBA scouts get to further analyze their NBA Draft prospects.)

By: David Kay

Never in a million years did I think Lazar Hayward would be a first round pick in the 2010 NBA Draft.  Neither did any other mock draft site I checked out last summer.  Still, the former Marquette standout ended up being selected with the 30th pick by the Minnesota Timberwolves, proving that all it takes is one team to really like what you bring to the table (or that David Kahn is even dumber than we all thought.)

Hayward certainly reaped the benefits of entering the draft a year after all thirty teams passed on fellow Golden Eagle, Wesley Matthews who slipped through the cracks but quickly developed into a starter on the Utah Jazz and cashed in this past off-season with the Blazers.  Matthews helped give Marquette players the reputation of being tough, hard-workers, and definitely worth a second look come draft time.  Jimmy Butler should be saying “thank you.”

JIMMY BUTLER MARQUETTESince the season ended, Butler has tremendously helped his NBA Draft stock, most recently by showing off his all-around abilities and being named MVP at Portsmouth.  In three games, Butler scored 56 points on 18-29 FG, 20-20 FT while grabbing 14 boards and dishing out 12 assists.

Butler also put in a solid showing in the Reese’s All-Star Game held in the Houston the weekend of the Final Four.  Once again, he did a little bit of everything on the way to 12 points, six rebounds, four assists, and two steals in 20 minutes of play.  Hayward used a solid showing at the same game a year ago to help raise his draft stock as well.

In that game, Butler displayed his versatility as a defender, guarding players from Morehead State’s Kenneth Faried (a 6-8 power forward who will be a mid-first round pick) to shooting guard Cameron Jones of Northern Arizona.  It is that aspect of his game that really became a strength at the end of the season and could help him find a niche in the NBA.

At MU, Butler guarded multiple positions on a nightly basis and often drew the responsibility of matching up against the other team’s top scorer.  In their opening round game of the NCAA Tournament, Butler held Xavier’s All-American point guard Tu Holloway to his worst offensive output of the season.  Late in the season, Butler also contained Providence’s scoring machine Marshon Brooks.  His defense late in regulation and overtime against Kemba Walker helped MU pick up a huge road win at UConn in late February.

With that being said, I think Butler has the potential to become a Maurice Evans/Keith Bogans type of player at the next level.  Evans and Bogans have both stuck around and even found starting jobs throughout their NBA career due to their defense.  Since Butler is not an overwhelmingly talented scorer, he will have to hang his hat on the other end of the floor, similar to what Matthews did in his rookie season with the Jazz.  At 6-7, 220 pounds, Butler possesses the size, athleticism, intelligence, and desire to be a solid defender at the pro level.

jimmy butler nba draftAs it stands now, I have Butler as a late-second round pick in my 2011 NBA Mock Draft.  He could move into the early or mid-second round if he continues to impress during individual or group workouts usually held by NBA teams in late May and leading up to the draft.  It will also be interesting to see if he gets invited to participate at the NBA Draft combine in Chicago.  If a player is asked to attend, it is usually a good indication that the player will end up getting drafted.  Hayward took part in the combine last summer and used that platform to help his cause.

In the end, it will all come to location for Butler.  If he ends up getting drafted into a situation like Hayward was in Minnesota where there were already five other wing players on the roster or like Travis Diener encountered in Orlando when he was drafted to a team that already had three point guards, Butler’s chances of making a NBA roster, let alone even seeing the court decrease.  But if he can get drafted into a situation where a team is looking for Butler to be a role player off the bench, bringing his versatility as a defender and “not trying to do too much” attitude on offense, it could be the starting point to a decent NBA career.

If Butler suffers a Matthews-like experience and does not hear his name called on draft night,  it will be disappointing but maybe a blessing in disguise like it was for Wesley.  For the time being, Butler needs to just keep doing what he has been doing; work hard, show off his unselfishness, play to his strengths, and Butler will be heading to some NBA team’s camp whenever the time comes.

CHECK OUT MY IN-DEPTH JIMMY BUTLER SCOUTING REPORT

David Kay is a senior feature NBA Draft, NBA, and college basketball writer for the Sports Bank.  He also heads up the NBA and college basketball material at Walter Football.com and is a former contributor at The Washington Times Communities.

You can follow him on Twitter at DavidKay_TSB.

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