Jared Butler’s ability to shoot from anywhere and make plays in the pick-and-roll makes him a valuable NBA draft prospect for the Knicks.

As the New York Knicks look to expand upon their playoff dreams that came to life last season, they could potentially add someone with a bit of championship flair via the draft. Jared Butler, fresh off an NCAA title win with Baylor, is expected to be a late first-round pick and someone the Knicks could possibly draft with the 19th or 21st pick.

Butler, entering the 2021 NBA Draft following his junior year at Baylor, tested the draft waters after he averaged 16.0 points per game in his sophomore season. The 20-year-old point guard ultimately decided to go back to Baylor in a move that definitely propelled his draft stock and turned him into a first-round prospect. In his junior season, aside from becoming an NCAA champion, Butler was named the NCAA Final Four Most Outstanding Player, a first-team All-American and first-team All-Big 12.

His draft status was in jeopardy for a brief while, as it was announced last month that Butler would need to be cleared by an NBA Fitness-To-Play panel in order to even be in the league. He was diagnosed with a heart condition in 2018 but had played all three of his years at Baylor with no issues. This past Saturday, Shams Charania of The Athletic welcomed the news that Butler had been medically cleared by the panel, and ready to participate in the impending draft.

Butler scored just a bit more in his junior season, bringing his per game total up to 16.7—the highest scorer on the Baylor squad and third-highest in the Big 12. His scoring percentages, however, improved across the board. Butler shot 47.1% from the field this past season and an impressive 41.6% from three-point range—the best across the Big 12. His two-point shot percentage also went up from 46.2% to 52.4% this past season.

When it comes to three-pointers, though, Butler has the potential to be absolutely deadly. Across his first 16 games this past season, he shot 45.2% from behind the arc. He’s especially great at shooting in pick-and-roll scenarios, where he can pull up for open threes off the screen. He also thrives as the ball handler in those scenarios, able to use his quickness to find an open window to shoot.

With the ball in his hands, Butler can also be quite lethal with his dribble. He’s a smaller guard at only 6-foot-2 and uses his speed to move defenders off balance and create space to roll to the rim. He’s also great with the ball in pick-and-rolls, able to use his quickness to beat the defender around the screen.

As a smaller guard, though, he is usually unable to finish if he meets a defender in the lane. In such situations, he struggles to draw fouls, too, having only averaged three free throws a game last season. At the NBA level, this might mean he would have to settle for a lot more jump shots rather than get bullied at the rim against even larger defenders.

That is a situation, however, where he could show off his passing skills. Butler averaged 4.8 assists this past season, good for third in the Big 12. A lot of times when he couldn’t get open looks at the rim, he would make crafty passes out to open teammates. He also operates well as a passer in pick-and-roll situations.

Butler can be turnover-prone, though, having averaged 2.8 per game last year to his 4.8 assists. A lot of the passes he made in college were difficult ones, often lobbing the ball into the paint off a pick praying that his rolling teammate could throw it down or lay it in over defenders. These passes could be dangerous at an NBA level and lead to easy turnovers.

Outside of his offense, Butler is a gifted and willing on and off-ball defender. He nabbed two steals per game this past season, best in the Big 12. When playing on the ball, he is particularly suffering and often pressures offenses to pick up their carry. He is great at following players to the rim, too, forcing tough shots in the paint. 

Off-ball, he often exploits offensive schemes and scurries to where the offense is intending to make their mark. He’ll rush in front of passes to intercept and create an easy bucket off a turnover, or see a man open for three and quickly get in his space to create a diversion.

Butler could easily be handled at the NBA level with a couple of screens, though, as his (lack of) height won’t be too challenging for most larger guards and forwards. Offenses might find a way to use his size to their advantage, creating mismatches through screens for their larger offensive playmakers. 

So, how would all this translate into being a solid fit with the Knicks? Going into an offseason where there are multiple guard spots up for grabs (Rose, Burks, and Bullock are unrestricted free agents), the Knicks will likely draft to fill their backcourt. 

Butler is a ball-handling guard who should be able to shoot the ball at a league-average to above-average percentage, much like Alec Burks. He’s efficient at shooting three-pointers off screens like Reggie Bullock. And, he’s able to use his dribble to drive the lane and make inside shots like Derrick Rose did. In one facet of his game or another, Butler really has a little bit of each of those players in his skill set.

The added element he brings would be his passing, which the Knicks sorely need in a playmaking guard. Many of Butler’s assists came off pick-and-rolls, somewhere he could thrive with Mitchell Robinson back in the lineup next season. He could also use his handles to drive to the rim, and kick out to R.J. Barrett, Julius Randle, Immanuel Quickley, or any of the other Knicks shooters for an open shot opportunity.

Butler would make regular appearances in the rotation for his defense alone, especially if restricted free agent Frank Ntilikina signs elsewhere this offseason. He should be able to handle guarding most other teams’ lead ball-handlers early on in his career and would be a great off-ball helper to read opposing gameplans in coach Tom Thibodeau’s system

Aside from just what a scouting report may show, it’s important to remember that Jared Butler saw the bright lights of the NCAA Tournament and never quivered. He averaged over 15 points per game in the tournament, led his team to a championship, and emerged as the Most Outstanding Player all at 20 years old. On a Knicks team that’s among the youngest in the league, someone with that type of confidence and steadfastness aside from his age could go a long way.


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