After averaging 27.5 points and 21 rebounds on 54.2 TS% and 51.6 eFG%, while leading Meralco to a 3-3 record, a debilitating stomach virus finally forced (depends on who you believe) the Bolts to put import Brian Butch on the reserve list and activate Darnell Jackson.
It has been quite an interesting ride for Butch, who’s (as expected) played well in his team’s wins (36.3 ppg) and struggled in their losses (18.6 ppg). With the team not totally closing the door on a return from a healthy Polar Bear, we take a look at not only how Butch fits into this Meralco team, but also how his limitations may be fuelling their struggles as well.
For this post, we’ll focus on two games, Meralco’s March 21 game vs. TNT and their March 23 game vs. Air 21.
Let’s start with the positives.
Meralco: 109 – Air 21: 98. Brian Butch: 40 points and 31 rebounds on 54.2% shooting.
Not only is Butch tall at 6’10, but he’s also sniper from beyond the arc. That deadly combination gives Coach Ryan the option to have some very good spacing on the court.
In the video below, we see two different scenarios that showcase how Butch’s range helps the Bolts’ offense.
Butch’s range not only gives Meralco another offensive threat, but also puts added pressure on the defense by pulling out help defenders outside of the paint.
The first set(s) shows Meralco deliberately going inside to Hugnatan in the post. Normally, the other big man will clear out on the opposite side or elbow and that’s already considered good spacing, but Butch’s range allows them to take it one step further, clearing the entire paint area by planting him out beyond the arc.
The second action sees Butch fade after setting a pick, leaving Meralco with a 4 out – 1 in set-up with Hodge as the only player inside. This doesn’t last long though, as Hodge goes out himself, leaving all five Meralco players outside the paint. Sensing an opportunity, Wilson then drives against Atkins and with no help defense in the immediate vicinity, forces Dillinger’s man to help from the weakside, leaving him with a wide open three.
Yes, Butch Is the tallest import in the league this conference, but a quick visual inspection of his frame also shows us that he has a wide wing span and a pretty wide body as well.
These physical advantages makes Butch a monster on the glass, particularly on the offensive end, where he recovers 5.1 misses a game and grabs 11.7% of available offensive rebounds when he is on the floor.
It will take a very physical defense to stop Butch when he gets good position inside (more on this later).
Despite his size, Butch is also a player that possesses what some call “sneaky” quickness and mobility.
The video clearly shows Butch be comfortable attacking from outside to inside and dribbling from side to side. When Butch is matched up against more traditional bigs like Taulava and Fajardo, he should be able to take them off the dribble fairly easily.
Now we get to the fun bit. =)
A big part of Meralco’s game plan this conference consists of fast transition attacks off defensive rebounds. With Dillinger taking on primary ball handling duties, he uses his speed and size to put immediate pressure on the defense. With a full head of steam, there are only a few guards in this league that can stop Dillinger driving to the basket. In contrast, Butch isn’t really somebody that can keep pace with Dillinger, especially since he’s the one grabbing the rebound and giving the outlet pass.
As they say though, opposites attract. Let’s take a look at some plays below.
Interesting huh? Since Dillinger’s aggressive momentum towards the basket draws so much of the defense’s attention, opponents forget about Butch as he coolly steps into rhythm shots time and time again.
Meralco: 68 – Talk N Text: 91. Brian Butch: 16 points and 20 rebounds on 28.6% shooting.
Check out this video compilation of Talk N Text’s defense on Brian Butch.
You may have noticed that the video only features plays from the 1st quarter. Trust me though, it was like that the entire game.
We saw some really really reaaallly physical defense on Butch. De Ocampo didn’t give him a single inch once the ball crossed half court, pushing and bumping him every opportunity he got. When Butch had the ball, De Ocampo immediately put up his hands and closed out on him hard, not even letting Butch dribble the ball once. These tactics clearly took Butch out of his game early and completely. Aside from struggling against physical defenders, mobile defenders also seem to give Butch trouble, especially proactive defenders who employ an “attacking” brand of defense.
Lastly and perhaps most importantly, Butch doesn’t seem like a player that can easily create shots for himself. He does get the occasional post-up attempt, but it’s clear that he is way more effective being set up by his teammates.
Will we see the Polar Bear Again?
Personally, I really hope Butch is given another chance by Meralco. He is not the typical import that can create for himself and is a killer one on one, but what Butch brings to the table is give the Bolts a unique identity as a team. It may not translate to a championship, but Meralco will be different and unique enough to be one of the more entertaining teams to watch this conference. And if the right match-up falls into their laps in the playoffs (hint: NOT TNT), then a Cinderella run is not hard to image.
The Meralco Bolts just lost their Wednesday night showdown against the Barangay, 88-78. Butch replacement Darnell Jackson finished with 25 points, 18 rebounds, an assist, a steal, a block on 35% shooting.
All screen captures/videos of the game are courtesy of Aksyon TV (TV5).