With just over nine minutes left in SDSU’s dominating 25-point victory on Tuesday, the Aztecs lost a pivotal part of the team.
Lamont Butler crossed over a defender just above the 3-point line and came full speed down the lane to throw down a massive two-handed dunk in between two defenders. This play caused the remaining crowd inside Viejas Arena to erupt.
Unfortunately, Butler fell awkwardly, forcing him to come out of a game that was already out of hand with the score 58-33 at that point.
He was rushed straight to the locker room but made a quick return with his left arm and wrist wrapped. It seemed to be positive, considering how fast he returned to the bench. The next day, however, x-rays revealed Butler fractured his wrist. Fortunately, it does not require surgery. How long he is going to miss is unknown, but it will definitely be, at the very least, the next few weeks and possibly a month.
“The best ability is availability,” Brian Dutcher said this week. Unfortunately, arguably the best player on SDSU’s team, the first seven games of the season will be unavailable against the Aztecs’ final resume-building games of the non-conference season against Michigan and St. Mary’s.
Butler has really come on strong in his sophomore season.
In the last five games, he is averaging 11.8 points, 2.6 assists, and 2.4 steals while shooting 47.6% from the field, 50% from the 3PT line, and 73.3% from the charity stripe. Butler is also one of the best defenders on the team with the second-best Defensive Bayesian Performance Rating (DBPR) on the team. This is a metric used to quantify a player’s defensive value added to the team when they are on the court, according to evanmiya.com.
How do the Aztecs replace Butler’s production and a player who Adam Seiko described as “one of the toughest kids I’ve ever played with?”
The obvious answer is to ride with veteran Adam Seiko. Having already started two games this year and given the fact that Dutcher likes to trust his veteran players, Seiko would be the obvious answer to enter back into the starting lineup moving forward. But, given the Aztecs struggles on offense this season, starting a player who is only shooting 20% from the 3pt line, as mainly a floor spacer, while averaging 3.6 points, may not be the answer. It also does not help that Seiko is coming off a quad injury suffered in the first half in the loss to USC. The injury sidelined him for the remainder of that game and the contest against Long Beach State.
Another solution would be to give an opportunity to Butler’s classmate, Keith Dinwiddie Jr. Aztec fans have been begging for the talented sophomore to get more time due to the team’s offensive struggles. A player that played sparingly as a freshman and did not play much in the first couple of games of this season, but who came in during the Wooden Legacy Tournament and added valuable minutes to the rotation. Dinwiddie is a player whose shooting was described by Trey Pulliam as a “God-given ability” and, given more playing time, could be a “great opportunity.”
Dinwiddie’s stats are not eye-popping. He has only averaged 3.3 points while shooting 30.8% from the field in just over 13 minutes per game. However, he has not received consistent minutes all year. Players often speak about the difficulty of remaining ready on the bench when their number is not called. Recently, though, due to Seiko’s injury, his minutes have grown steadily, and he broke out in SDSU’s last game, pouring in 12 points on 44.8% shooting.
Looking deeper into Dinwiddie’s play, his value to the team cannot be overstated. SDSU’s two best lineups, in regards to adjusted team efficiency margin, both contain Dinwiddie. According to evanmiya.com, he is fourth on the team in overall BPR, a rating that measures a player’s overall ultimate value. He also boasts the team’s best +/- with a +45 while he is on the floor.
Given more consistent minutes, Keith Dinwiddie Jr. can be a real difference-maker for the team. He is a great shooter, and his shooting percentage is likely to improve. With him on the floor, driving lanes will be more available for players like Pulliam and Matt Bradley, who like to play downhill.
The Aztecs will certainly miss Butler’s increasing production and defensive tenacity. Still, hopefully, players like Dinwiddie will rise to the occasion in order to best replace the hole that Butler’s injury leaves.