The latest in a long line of imposing Florida State big men, freshman John Butler is already showing his impressive upside.
Despite working in the industry for a decade, I brought my ten-year-old daughter to her first college basketball game last week: Sunday’s South Carolina vs. Florida State matchup in the No Room for Racism Classic in Rock Hill, S.C.
She was excited, ready to provide her full scouting report on every player. It only took two turns in the layup lines for her to become enamored by Florida State big man John Butler.
Getting the nod
Butler is a 7-1 freshman and native of Greenville, S.C., where he won a state championship his senior season at Christ Chapel. Sunday’s game was surely circled on the Butler family calendar: Not only is Butler a South Carolina native who was recruited by the state’s flagship school, but his parents attended the university as well.
Butler’s name was broadcast over the brand-new, state-of-the-art Rock Hill Sports and Events Center loudspeaker, marking Butler’s third consecutive start for the Seminoles.
“He moved into the starting lineup because I have confidence in him,” Florida State head coach Leonard Hamilton said. “The confidence that what you are seeing now, I think he could end up being a very special player.”
“Special” may just be the tip of the iceberg
Butler moves unlike most 7-footers. He has the lateral ability to move his feet with guards and the vertical pop and dexterity to go between his legs in the air while he dunks the basketball.
There were questions coming out of high school about his frame — he currently weighs 190 pounds — and the level of competition he played against AA South Carolina public school basketball. Rivals had Butler ranked No. 79 in the 2021 class.
Through his first nine games, Butler is scoring exactly 1 point per possession, which Synergy grades as ‘very good.’ In half-court sets, against man coverage, Butler is scoring 1.032 points per possession, an ‘excellent’ rating according to the software.
Breaking down his halfcourt possessions further, Butler shoots jumpers in 71.9 percent of his halfcourt possessions, scoring 1.087 points per possession. His other 28.1 percent of shots are around the basket, scoring 1.778 points per possession in these situations.
Butler joins Virginia Tech’s Sean Pedulla as the ACC’s only two freshmen with player efficiency ratings above 15 and usage rates below 20.
“The future is exceptionally bright for him,” Hamilton said. “His skill set is great. He is still adjusting, but he has a great attitude, and he wants to be good. Learning a different system, he has to bring the ball up the floor, make decisions on the fly with what we need to get into. He has made significant progress so far and continues to get better.”
Bringing the versatility
As one would assume, the lengthy and mobile center has high-level defensive upside. Synergy rates Butler’s overall defensive presence as ‘very good’ and his man-to-man defense as ‘excellent.’
“You have no idea how challenging it is for a 7-1 guy to go from what he did in high school to be put in a situation he is in now,” Hamilton said. “He is switching one through five; in a single possession he could be guarding the guard and the post.”
While Butler may have come out of high school ranked outside of the top 75, he has begun his college career firmly on the NBA Draft radar.
Florida State has produced six first-round NBA draft picks since 2016. When analyzing frontcourt players, NBA executives lean heavily towards floor spacing, switching, and rim protection. As such, Butler is taking 2.3 threes per game and he leads all ACC freshmen in block percentage.
“I think he could end up being very special. His best basketball is ahead of him,” Hamilton said.