Overall Grade: B-
Fan Grade: C+
Traditional Stats (Team Rank)
5.3 Points (8th)
2.1 Rebounds (7th)
0.4 Assists (8th)
2-point FG%: 71.8% (1st)
3-point FG%: 47.6% (1st)
Nate Fowler was easily the most polarizing figure on the message boards this season. Nearly every game their were complaints about his minutes played. If he played a lot some fans complained that he was seeing the floor. If he didn't play much others complained about how he was on the bench. Fowler had a tremendous offensive season, but his timid play and questionable defense didn't always sit well with fans. But the bottom line is Nate Fowler was one of the more productive players when he saw the court, and he has a bright future with the Butler Bulldogs.
Offensive Grade: A-
Advanced Offensive Stats
True Shooting Percentage: 73.8% (1st)
Offensive Rebounding Percentage: 12.1% (1st)
Assist Percentage: 6.9% (7th)
Turnover Percentage: 14.8% (7th)
Usage Percentage: 18.7% (6th)
Offensive Rating: 137.5 (1st)
Nate Fowler's counting stats are nothing spectacular, but that's mainly because he didn't see a ton of minutes this season. His offensive rate stats are simply remarkable though. He was an outstanding 48% from behind the arc and a near automatic 72% inside the arc. What makes this even more impressive is these shots weren't simply all layups at the rim. Under half of his shots were classified that way. Fowler shot 63.3% on 2-point jump shots, which include jump shots out of post moves from the block.
That all adds up to an unbelievable 73.8% true shooting percentage. To put that in perspective, it was 3rd in the country this season (1st in any high major conference) for players seeing at least 400 minutes of playing time. It's also the most efficient shooting season in the Big East going back as far as Sports-Reference.com can track it (1992 - min 15 shot attempts).
Fowler was also a great rebounder, at least on the offensive end. He was one of only two players (Tyrique Jones - Xavier) in the Big East to have a higher offensive rebounding rate than defensive rebounding rate. His 12.1% offensive rebounding rate was best on the team and 8th best in the Big East. Fans may have criticized him for being soft, but that didn't show up in this aspect of his game.
All of this comes with a major caveat of course. Fowler did this with a slightly below average usage percent in only 12 minutes per game. He was not a focal point of any defensive game plans, and defenders likely didn't spend much time analyzing his scouting report. Teams didn't double down on Fowler the way they did on Andrew Chrabascz. They probably should have, but they rarely did. Some of his stats are fun to gawk at, but it's also important not to get carried away.
Defensive Grade: C
Advanced Defensive Stats
Defensive Rebounding Percentage: 9.9% (8th)
Steal Percentage: 1.0% (8th)
Block Percentage: 1.2% (7th)
Defensive Box Plus/Minus: 1.1 (7th)
Defensive Rating: 106.6 (8th)
Nate Fowler clearly had his struggles on the defensive end last season. There is no reason to sugar coat it. Defense is what kept Fowler from seeing major minutes. He was 8th of 9 players in defensive rebounding rate and 7th in block rate despite being the tallest player on the team. Pick and roll defense on the perimeter was a major issue and he fouled too much at the rim. Fowler was last on the team in fouls per 40 minutes (5.6).
From the eye test to the advanced stats, everything says Nate Fowler was a terrible defender, which makes one stat in particular very intriguing. While Nate Fowler was in the game, opponents scored only 1.00 points per possession. Nobody who played as many minutes allowed fewer. Are we all wrong about how bad Fowler is defensively? Probably not. There are two factors that confound this data. First, Nate Fowler didn't start games, and usually didn't finish them either, so he was much more likely to be playing against reserves when on the court. Reserves that probably weren't as potent offensively.
The other factor, one that's much more fascinating, is that Butler often played zone when Fowler was in the game. Holtmann unveiled a matchup 2-3 zone midway through the season, and he frequently used it to try and hide Fowler's defensive struggles. The wrinkle worked, as Butler managed to actually improve their defense with Fowler on the floor. This doesn't make Fowler a good defender by any stretch, but maybe his defensive liabilities didn't hold the team back as much as we all originally thought.
Nate Fowler will be entrenched in one of the key position battles for next season. Butler returns starting center Tyler Wideman and top 100 recruit Joey Brunk enters the equation as a redshirt freshman. Wideman has been solid for Butler as a starter and has a huge edge in experience, but both Fowler and Brunk possess higher ceilings thanks to a more expansive offensive game. Regardless of how the distribution of minutes plays out, Butler should be in good shape at the center position for the foreseeable future.
Coming up next in the series will be senior Tyler Lewis. You can vote for his grade on the forums here. You can see the previous report cards linked below: