The Polar Bear is not yet extinct

Badger fans, did you see this???

We may soon have a Polar Bear sighting in some arena in the National Basketball Association.  Former Wisconsin Badger big man and Appleton native Brian Butch not only won the Most Valuable Player award for the D-League, a glance over the box score suggests he dominated the game. And, judging from the number of possessions, the field goal percentages, and the turnovers, it looks like the D-Leaguers take the game much more seriously than their NBA counterparts.

Brian Butch always had a nice mix of size and skill.  But he played too much like a small forward.  It appears he has finally come to the realization that height is an asset that ought to be leveraged in the game of basketball.  He’s pounding the boards and shooting high percentage shots, with a nice mix of 3 point baskets and inside hoops.  He  is seemingly playing a more efficient game than he did in Madison.  Good for him.


2 Responses to “The Polar Bear is not yet extinct”

  1. Josh Says:


    I have a stat called Player Efficiency Margin (PEM). PEM is an allocation of the team’s Efficiency Margin to each player on the team based on their offense and defense. As should be clear, PEM is a per-possession stat, so it does not take playing time into account.

    Here are Butch’s PEM’s for the 4 seasons he played:

    2008 – 43.7
    2007 – 34.9
    2006 – 25.6
    2005 – 25.4

    As you can see, Butch was always a very good player and got really good in his last season. In fact, only two Badgers have had a better PEM from 2005 – 2009. Alando Tucker had an amazing 48.1 in 2007 and Mike Wilkinson had a very good 44.3 in 2005. As a side note, Jon Leuer could finish as the best of the bunch; he has a 50.1 through January 31.

    As another bit of context, Butch’s 43.7 PEM would place him 4th in the Big Ten this season after Robbie Hummel, Jon Leuer, and Evan Turner. That’s some pretty good company.

    I think that Butch’s skills were not much appreciated for a number of reasons. First, he wasn’t a traditional back-to-the-basket big, although he did have some moves down low.

    Second, he took a lot of shots from beyond the arc, and I hypothesize that viewers automatically dismiss a big shooting 3’s as a worthwhile skill. However, in Butch’s case, I agree with them, because he was never a good enough shooter to consistently take that shot.

    Third, he was an amazing rebounder, which is a truly undervalued skill, as you should appreciate as a disciple of Prof. Berri. His senior season, he corralled 10.9% of available offensive rebounds for a team that chooses not to pursue offensive rebounds much. That was good for 200th in the nation. However, he was even better on the defensive boards, grabbing 21.2% of missed shots his senior year, good for 105th in the nation.

    Fourth, for a big man, he just never turned the ball over. In his senior season, he ranked 115 in the country with a turnover rate of 13.1%, all while using 28.2% of his team’s possessions. And his rank compares him to low usage shooting guard types and others who generally have lower turnover rates than bigs. Avoiding turnovers is a great ability, especially in a big, but viewers don’t tend to pay much attention to its value.

    Finally, from a subjective point of view, he looked awkward. It’s funny how no amount of production can seem to overcome the awkward, white-guy stereotype.

    Butch was (and still is, based on his D-League All-Star MVP) a really good player. Based on his college production, what he’s done in the D-League, and the value of bigs in the Association, I would say he deserves a shot on a 10-day contract.

    • tywill33 Says:

      I like it, man! I like it.

      I don’t want to go full out with one of my crazy theories here, but in a nutshell I think people are resistant to the idea that the attributes of a “big ugly” can have a greater impact than the attributes of an acrobatic scorer. For instance, on HoopData, where they list Win Score statistics, they list them with the notation that WS tends to “favor big men”. The game of basketball favors big men.

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