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Monday Musings: The Greatness of Butler

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Comparing Jimmy Butler to his peers

NBA: Playoffs-Boston Celtics at Chicago Bulls Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

I often find that some of the players that are most difficult to write about are often the very best ones. It is somewhat counterintuitive, but has been historically (at least for myself) less interesting to write about the likes of Karl-Anthony Towns simply because any article simply becomes a laudatory list of praises and accomplishments. Instead, we often talk about how players like Towns can get better and pick apart the pieces of his game that need to improve in order for him to take the next step, as there are enough commentaries across the Internet that exist to simply take stock of his accomplishments.

For this reason, I think we sometimes forget just how good Jimmy Butler is. Of course, Wolves fans were ecstatic when the draft day trade took place, as Thibs and Co. committed highway robbery against the Bulls and Butler is the superstar type that the Wolves needed in order to take the next step. But it is hard to appreciate how amazing Butler is, as he is also a new player for the Wolves so we do not have the full background of how he will enmesh with this roster, so all we can really do is speculate on the future.

But with Butler and Towns, the Wolves are going to have two top-20 players in the NBA at the same time. I do not believe that has happened to this franchise before. This is also new for Butler and Towns, as Butler has never really played with a player as good as Towns before. Butler and healthy Derrick Rose did not really overlap in their availabilities for the Bulls and the best player that Butler played with was a really good Joakim Noah or Luol Deng. For Towns, he has never played with a player of Butler’s caliber before.

Butler is also probably the 4th or 5th best Wing in the NBA at the moment, depending on what position you consider James Harden to be playing. There is a clear “best” tier of players who will be making a run at the MVP next year with LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard, and Kevin Durant. Jimmy Butler is amazing, but I think it is fair to place him below that tier of players.

Below that tier are the other superstar wings:

  • Jimmy Butler
  • Giannis Antetokoumpo
  • Paul George
  • DeMar DeRozan
  • Klay Thompson
  • Carmelo Anthony
  • Gordon Hayward
  • James Harden (depending on position)

Out of those players, Jimmy Butler is probably the best of the bunch. Giannis is the only real wild-card of the group, as the limit on his ceiling may just be boundless. Of course, Harden is the other debatable option, as he is by himself one of the best offenses in the NBA, but it’s still a tough call.

With a player comparison from last season between Butler, Giannis, PG, DeRozan, Klay, and Hayward, the differences become clear (it is also ridiculous to have a Timberwolves player even included in such a list.

Butler only trails Giannis in BPM and VORP, while holding the highest WS/48. Giannis and Butler are the best facilitators, with respective assist percentages of 26.6 and 24.8, but Butler is much better at holding that playmaking responsibility without turning the ball over, as his turnover percentage is 9.3 to Giannis’ 13.3.

Butler is only behind Giannis in rebounding ability and is second to Giannis again in combined steal and block percentage, as Giannis holds an absurd 4.7 block percentage (side note: Giannis might just be a freak of nature and is incredible).

Butler is the middling three-point shooter of the bunch, as he certainly cannot keep up with Klay, PG, or Hayward, but he is the most effective by far at getting to the free throw line.

Of course, defense is where Butler really shines, and he holds the second highest DPM of any player, second to Giannis again, and Butler holds three All-NBA defensive 2nd team placements from 2013-2016.

If we were to break down these players from a few angles of playmaking, defense, and shooting.

Playmaking rankings:

Giannis
Butler
PG
Hayward
DeRozan
Klay

Defense Rankings (these are the most subjective of the bunch):

Giannis
Butler
PG
Klay
Hayward
DeRozan

Shooting Rankings:

Klay
Hayward
PG
Butler
DeRozan
Giannis

Other than showing us just how insane Giannis is, I think it is clear that Butler is the most well-rounded of the bunch and what he was able to achieve with what was arguably the worst team of any of these players is quite the accomplishment.

Two-way wings are perhaps the most valuable players in all of the NBA. There is a reason why Kawhi, Durant, and LeBron are perennial MVP candidates. The Wolves now have perhaps the best of the players just below that grouping. It is going to be a fun year.