The night of the NBA draft was a long slog for Jared Butler.
Considered a top-20 talent by many analysts, questions about a years-old heart condition and a more recent knee injury caused the Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four to start sliding.
“It was hard, it was really tough, because it was something that was out of my control,” Butler said Saturday afternoon at the Zions Bank Basketball Campus, as he was introduced as the newest member of the Utah Jazz.
That rough night for him proved a fortuitous one for the Jazz, though.
As an organization with myriad ties to Baylor University, including former Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations Dennis Lindsey, the Jazz felt like they had good intel on Butler, and loved him as a player. They told him before the draft that there was definite interest on their part, but the problem was they didn’t originally believe he’d last until they were making their first-round pick at No. 30.
Then, a bunch of other players got their names called instead.
The franchise was ultimately able to swap the 30th selection for No. 40 and a pair of future second-round draft picks. And when it was finally their turn, they snapped up Butler, with general manager Justin Zanik calling it “a no-brainer” to get the consensus All-American known for his fantastic 3-point shooting and tight ball-handling.
Though that extra bit of waiting to see his dream of becoming a pro fulfilled was hard, Butler said he leaned on his faith to calm himself, and came to the conclusion that everything would work out.
“When the Jazz called me, I was extremely thankful,” Butler said. “This is where I’m supposed to be.”
The hard part done and over with, the 20-year-old Louisiana native was all smiles Saturday. As he took the dais in the media room at ZBBC, he noticed his parents and sister to his right on the side of the room, and offered an enthusiastic, “Oh, hey Mom!” He jokingly humble-bragged about being “a cool guy,” then described himself as someone who likes to smile and laugh, who is personable, who enjoys going out to meals with people and “having genuine conversation.”
As for basketball, he called it a “gold mine for me” being on the same team as Donovan Mitchell and, hopefully, Mike Conley, noting that he’s hoping to be able to go them and have them teach him things he can do to replicate the success they’ve had. He said coach Quin Snyder was the first person to call him on draft night, and that the coach told him he was “extremely happy that I got to 40.”
Asked what he knows about or likes about the Jazz, Butler grinned and immediately replied, “I like how they shoot a lot of 3s.”
As for what he can contribute in his first pro season, while acknowledging that there will be a growing process and a huge step up in competition, even as a player who just led a team to a national championship, his goal is ultimately to make you forget, well, that it’s his first pro season.
“I don’t want to be a liability. I don’t want you to know that I’m a rookie. I want you to think as if I’ve been playing in the league six or seven years,” Butler said. “… I’m humble enough to realize my role, but at the same time, I can make huge contributions to winning. And that’s what I’m all about.”