Isiah Might Serve Up Another Gem In Butler

Last March I wrote an article titled Zeke?s Eye For The Draftee Guy which praised the Knicks GM on his ability to find talent in the draft. At the time it was based on his his only selection in New York where he stole Trevor Ariza in the second round, combined with his stellar record in Toronto where he drafted Damon Stoudamire, Marcus Camby, and Tracy McGrady. Since then he’s had three more picks with the Knicks. While the final verdict is still out on these rookies, they have been well received so far.

A few days before writing that article, Isiah Thomas had picked up two CBA players to fill out the Knicks roster. Again, I had an opinion to share about it.

Of the two, Butler is more likely to be a CBA success story ala John Starks or Anthony Mason… To think either of them is going to be part of the Knicks future in 2007 would be optimistic. However it?s the perfect type of low risk/high reward move where a GM can?t lose, but can win if he gets a serviceable player out of the deal.

Butler’s stats in the CBA showed that he excelled at scoring, rebounding, and blocking shots. After he signed with New York, he played sparingly in the NBA regular season seeing only 5 minutes of garbage time. So far this preseason, Butler has put up some interesting numbers. He’s averaged 17 points, 12 rebounds, and 3.3 blocks per 40 minutes. Those numbers should be taken with a grain of salt. Butler has only appeared in 5 games, he’s barely averaged 14 minutes a game, and preseason games don’t have the same level of competition as the regular season. But by combining his stats from preseason, the summer league and the CBA, a pattern emerges.

LEAGUE       OREB/40           TREB/40           BLK/40           PTS/40
'06 PRE       3.8              12.1              3.3              17.0
'05 SUM       4.0              11.8              1.6              11.8
'05 CBA       4.2              12.4              1.7              20.8

Although competition level and the minutes played have varied, Butler has been remarkably consistent in regards to his rebounding. He’s averaged close to 12 rebounds per 40 minutes, with about 4 of those coming on the offensive glass. Those numbers are almost identical to former Knick center Nazr Mohammed. In fact, between the three stops, Butler’s blocked shots, turnovers, and rebounds are comparable to Nazr’s. As I said in March, it would be a “win” if Isiah was able to get anything in return from picking up Butler from the CBA. But if Jackie turns into a player of Nazr’s caliber, Thomas will have accomplished a major feat and cemented his status as a young talent evaluator.

Right now, Butler is probably 4th on New York’s center depth chart behind Curry, James, and Frye, although his prospects of playing might not be as bleak. Jerome James has had only one season where he has missed less than 17 games. Meanwhile Frye might see most of his time at power forward, and Curry’s health will be an eternal question mark. It’s possible that Larry Brown might have to rely on Jackie Butler if the Knicks big men gets bitten by the injury bug. While it’s unsure if Brown will turn to Butler other than out of emergency, one thing is clear. When Jackie Butler steps onto the court, he will be a force under the boards.

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Mike Kurylo

Mike Kurylo is the founder and editor of His book on the 2012 Knicks, "We’ll Always Have Linsanity," is on sale now. Follow him on twitter (@KnickerBlogger).

21 thoughts to “Isiah Might Serve Up Another Gem In Butler”

  1. I was suprised that the Wolves cut Butler as he had been talked about as a potential first rounder and some said he had lottery potential. Usually McHale and Co are the ones finding other peoples’ mistakes not making the mistakes themselves.

  2. I remember looking at the Knicks payroll this summer and thinking about which contract I’d most like to cut w/ the Allan Houston Rule. For a second, Jerome James’ jumped out at me before I realized it was only a week or so old.

  3. Is anyone with me in thinking that I’d rather have given james a 3 year 45 million dollar deal than a 5 year deal for 30? I’m being totally serious, because I can’t stand the fact that he’ll STILL BE ON OUR ROSTER IN 4 YEARS. Doesn’t Isaiah at least have a team of advisers?

  4. Hey everybody.. just wanted to know how you guys think the starting lineup compares this year over last. I for one would absolutely rather have Eddy Curry over Nazr (who I really don’t think is any better defensively, and whose rebounding numbers dropped off as the year progressed) and Q over Tim Thomas. The PF position looks to have gotten worse without Kurt and Sweetney, but David Lee or Channing Frye might develop into servicable big men and Antonio Davis looks pretty good so far. I really hope Larry benches Rose and Taylor. But overall, an improvement despite most people on this blog having negative things to say about the trade. Do people agree?

  5. I agree that this years team is overall a better team than last years. But my main concern is that I don’t get the sense that we’re building towards a championship. Around the league, there are the contenders, the solid veteran teams, the promising young teams, and then the rest, who are constantly flirting with mediocrity. What is the real ceiling with this team? As Knicks fans we have hope, but what’s the difference between us and Memphis, the Clips, the Wizards, the Sixers? The way you win in the NBA (with MJ’s Bulls as the exception) is with a talented big man as your anchor, and then you surround him with good role players. Is Channing Frye, David Lee, or Eddy Curry going to turn into a Duncan/KG/Webber/Kemp/Shaq/Mourning/Ewing etc and on down the line? The answer is no. Isaiah is a good talent evaluator, and a HORRIBLE GM in terms of building a team. So while I may have rambled for a bit too long, my opinion is that Isaiahs strategy is not to win a championship, but to make the Garden an exciting place to watch basketball games and to make the Knicks a headline act once again. Knickerblogger, whats your opinion here? Do you see a team led by Marbury, Crawford, and Curry EVER competing for a title?

  6. Jay,
    To play devil’s advocate, only 2 out of your 7 big men have a ring to show for it. While Detroit has a recent championship w/out a dominant big man and Phoenix had the best record in the league w/o a traditional game plan either. Not that we should necessarily try to mirror one of them, but The point is that there are non-conventional strategies that can win basketball games.

    Having lots of young talent that is well coached and driven to become great might be one of them. Time will tell.

  7. I think that the Knicks are taking a pretty reasonable path.

    Only one team a year wins the championship and for stretches of 3 years at a time that team may be the same one. If you are not that one team would you rather be in the lottery or going deep into the playoffs? I, for one, really enjoyed the Knicks of the 1990s despite the fact that they never won a championship.

    The Knicks have the offensive talent where, if they catch a few breaks, they could be very good, while their defense leaves a lot more to be desired. I would rather be in this position and maybe be a perennial bridesmaid because of defensive shortcomings than sit in the lottery for a decade and wait for the next Tim Duncan (because I bet you chances are just as good that that player never comes than that he does).

    You also have to consider that you’re probably at least equally likely to get an All_NBA player who will lead you to the championship through a trade or free agency as high in the draft and LeBron or KG, for example, do not want to sign with or be traded to the Hornets.

    Look for example at the Bulls, who wasted years searching for the next Jordan before finally putting together a strong team that would probably need an addition to win a championship.

  8. I understand where both of you are coming from. Ricky, your point is well taken, but I could just as easily have put Chamberlain/Russell/David Robinson etc. My point was that the easiest road to success is to have a stud big man because of the effect it has on the rest of the team. Phoenix had Amare, and Detroits tandem of Wallace and Wallace is about as good as it gets for a starting frontcourt. Whatever–the point was that I don’t sense that a championship caliber team is coming together, and I’m not sure that I agree with Ted’s assessment that the Knicks are taking a “reasonable” path. Is a 5 year guaranteed deal for Jerome James, he of 4 points and 3 rbs per game, reasonable? What about paying Jamal Crawford 8 million a year for 7 years (thats a guess, I dont remember his exact figures).

  9. Sitting around and waiting for Shaq to come out of the draft doesn’t make sense, but neither does handcuffing yourself with terrible contracts. The problem is by adding Eddie Curry’s and Jerome James’s the Knicks won’t be able to trade for a star when one becomes available… this is b/c no one wants overpriced salary cap clogging junk.

    Or, in other words, if when KG was available 2 years ago the Knicks had some desirable pieces they may have been able to get him.

  10. Or ask yourself this: Why wern’t the Knicks in the running for Shaq when the Lakers were trading him?

    Answer: They had nothing another team would want. Other teams want good players under contract that is at at or under market value and draft picks. Not Allan Houston, Latrell Sprewell, Stephon Marbury, Jamal Crawford, etc.

  11. I agree with you Kareem. On top of that, the Knicks have an advantage over just about every other team in the league. We play in the biggest media market in the world. That is why its so baffling that we can’t lure a top big man here through free agency, and why its inexcusable to keep handing out bogus contracts.

  12. Jay:
    Unfortunately, Curry is about as big time as free agent bigmen come, and you could argue he?s already a ?top? bigman offensively (#5 scoring center on a low scoring team). I would disagree with you and say that he does have the potential to be a Webber/Kemp caliber player. There are many reasons why players prefer to resign with their previous team (including restricted free agency, the CBA, and personal reasons) or avoid free agency all together (mainly the risk I guess). By my count (could easily be missing someone) K-Mart is the biggest FA big to leave home recently and he?s no Bill Russell. Even if a top caliber bigman was available Chicago?s inability to sign any top free agents for years serves as proof that the bright lights and big city might not be enough to lure him. So chances are that even if the Knicks had all the cap room in the world they?d still be looking at giving big money to unproven guys like Curry or Joe Johnson, or maybe a soon to be over-the-hill vet like Ray Allen.

    What I meant by ?reasonable? is that the Knicks are making an effort to regain respectability by spreading their risks on unproven talent. I?d rather see a more hard-working defensive minded roster, sure, and I don?t agree with every move (especially James and Mo Taylor). However, I think the Knicks could have a nice young team already and they now have some attractive trading chips in young players and expiring contracts to make the necessary changes and improvements to become a contender in a few years.
    While cutting salary and ?rebuilding? in the traditional sense is cheaper and can be equally effective if done properly, it might have taken a while for the Knicks to get under the cap given the contracts of Houston, Eisley, and Anderson. Even then free agency and the draft are as risky as trades/ sing and trades. If you are lucky enough to draft a Greg Oden and he?s not a Darko you still have to wait a few years for him to develop.
    Although players such as Jamal Crawford, Eddy Curry, and Stephon Marbury come with a lot of baggage considering their tax bracket, they also come with a ton of ?talent?, ?upside?, and ?potential?. Dangerous words coming out of the wrong mouths, but the only way you?re going to build a quality team. Only in very rare circumstances will a team give up someone they perceive to be a future franchise player let alone a proven franchise player with anything left and when they do they?re usually looking for tons on talent in return. Seeing as few teams sign their franshise player(s) as a proven free agent(s) and even the best executives have Darkos and Rodney Whites, Dahntey Jones? and Troy Bells, and Benders on their draft records, most successful teams are built by trading for and signing unproven players (usually with considerable question marks) with a few good draft picks and proven free agents thrown in.

    Seems the Knicks were in the running for Steph, VC, and Kobe (not really). When the Heat got Shaq what did they give up? Lamar Odom was the best player and only one year before he was an unproven, inconsistent guy with a questionable attitude they took a big time risk on in free agency (sounds familiar), Caron Butler was coming off a season in which he shot .380, and Brian Grant was the definition of ?overpriced salary cap clogging junk.? It seems that a big reason they were able to get Shaq is that the Lakers were desperate and Shaq already had some injury concerns and now he?s going to be making $20 mill when he?s 38.

    Seeing as the Knicks should figure to have several young players making well under market value (hopefully some combination of Frye, Nate, Lee, and Butler will succeed), expiring contracts, and good players making ?market value? (Stephon, Q and Curry if healthy, and Jamal Crawford if he can improve his shot selection/defense) they should be in the running next time a team is desperate to move a true franshise player.

    Steph makes a whole lot of money, but he?s also one of the best PGs in the league and with a scoring threat inside may prove to be worth the money. If healthy Curry may actually prove to be underpaid: $10 million for a true low-post scorer already putting up 22.4 points per 40 minutes at the age of 22 isn?t bad despite his shortcomings. Especially considering that teams overpay bigmen: market value for Dampier was around $9 million per until he?s 35, Troy Murphy got 9, Adonal Foyle got 8, for Rasho it was 7, Dalembert got 10 mill despite never having played the minutes Curry does, even Kandi man got 5 and not one of these players has anything on Curry in terms of low-post scoring. (You can?t tell me teams value defense more than offense when Michael Redd, by far the worst defensive off-guard in the league had max deals on the table from several teams.) Antoine Walker has similar defensive and rebounding limitations to Curry and while he has great low-post skills they tend to go to waste much of the time as he tends to drift behind the arc, yet he still got around 9 mill per on the open market. Z is almost the scorer Curry is, has a more complete game, injury risks, and is around 30 and he got 9 or 10 mill.

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