Butler’s Christmas Gift: The Impact of Roosevelt Jones

Posted by Justin Kundrat on December 24th, 2015

Butler has historically been a defensive-minded program. The best teams of the Brad Stevens era rarely had the biggest or most offensively talented group of players, but what won games for the Bulldogs was toughness and intelligence, a methodical pace and aggressive man-to-man defense. With Chris Holtmann at the helm, now in his second season, the switch has been flipped. This year’s team is playing at a tempo that far outpaces any Butler team in the 14-year KenPom era, and the results of the uptick have so far been tremendous. The Bulldogs are averaging the second most points per game in the nation (89.7) and are unquestionably the highest scoring team in the history of the program (the next highest is the 2011 team that averaged 71.2 PPG and lost to Connecticut in the National Championship game).

The impending battle down low between Roosevelt Jones and will be must see TV. (ZJB photograpy)

Roosevelt Jones finally has it going for Butler. (ZJB photograpy)

Don’t get the wrong idea, though. The team’s ridiculously high scoring rates have not been facilitated by a full-blown run-and-gun offense, as Butler has been shooting, rebounding and taking care of the ball at unprecedented rates. There are a multitude of explanations for its newfound efficiency: senior Kellen Dunham‘s improved shot selection; point guard Tyler Lewis‘ preference for faster basketball (particularly when compared to his predecessor, Alex Barlow), and the emergence of Kelan Martin as a legitimate scorer. But above all, it’s been the steadying force of guard Roosevelt Jones that has pushed Butler into overdrive. Despite playing fewer minutes this season, the senior has elevated his game and improved his production in nearly every statistical category.

In short, Jones has gotten more involved in every facet of the offense. He is shooting a career best 50.0 percent from the field and has increased his per-game averages in rebounding from 5.2 RPG to 7.8 RPT and assists from 3.7 APG to 5.4 APG. Moreover, he has logged only one KenPom offensive rating below 100.0 this season (it was over 100.0 in just 15 of 34 contests last season). But to explain Jones’ game in purely numbers would hardly be doing it justice; he has had a monumental impact within one of the nation’s most efficient offenses. While under greater pressure to score last season, his overall shooting percentage dropped from 48.6 percent to 42.1 percent. Now, with Lewis and Martin emerging as legitimate scoring threats as well, the lane has opened up and allowed Jones to thrive. 

Despite standing only 6’4″, Jones has demonstrated an ability to play with his back-to-the-basket in the low post. Here, he takes advantage of that size by bodying a 6’2″ point guard and getting his shot off before a secondary defender can get into position.

Shooting successes aside, Jones has spent a good portion of this season playing point guard in Holtmann’s offense. Most of the reason for this points to familiarity, but his dynamic playmaking abilities allow Butler to seamlessly slot him anywhere on the floor. During an otherwise stagnant possession, Jones signals for a play and then methodically shifts to the wing in order to set up an alley-oop.

Because defenses pay so much respect to Jones’ ability to drive the ball into the lane, help defenders often find themselves out of position. In this case, Lewis is the open shooter in the corner, but the large number of Butler outside shooting threats have made Jones all the more valuable. Twenty-five of his team-leading 58 assists have come on three-pointers, per Hoop-Math.

Lastly, Jones is leading the team in rebounding. Moreover, as a capable ball-handler, defensive rebounds quickly turn into transition opportunities in Jones’ hands. So while some will compliment Jones for his scoring ability, his contributions extend far beyond the balls he puts in the basket. Martin and Dunham will surely have shooting off-nights, but Jones’ diversified offensive game will ensure that even on those occasions, the Butler offense will just keep humming along.

Justin Kundrat (175 Posts)

Villanova grad, patiently waiting another 10 years for season tickets. Follow Justin on twitter @JustinKundrat or email him at justin.kundrat@gmail.com

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