2013-2014 Thunder player grades: Caron Butler was a mixed bag

Chris Covatta

Caron Butler joined the Thunder as a season-end pick-up. Was the move the right one?

Full Name: James Caron Butler

Nickname: Tuff Juice

Years in NBA: 2002-2014; 12 years

Contract Status:

Caron Butler signed a 1 year / $1 million contract with the Oklahoma City Thunder, including $1,000,000 guaranteed, and an annual average salary of $1,000,000. However, he enters unrestricted free agency in 2014.

Notable Factoid:

Butler was a drug dealer at the age of 11 and was arrested 15 times before the age of 15. He discovered his love for basketball at a detention center. He played in AAU basketball in '98 and '99 and, after a brief career at Racine Park High School, he joined Maine Central Institute where he found success, which earned him a scholarship to play at UConn.


Player History:

Butler led the Huskies his freshman year, averaging 15.6 points per game, and 7.6 rebounds per game. The summer after his freshman year, he started for the USA team that won the gold medal in 2001 FIBA world championship.

Butler had an incredible sophomore season, where he averaged 20.3 points per game, and 7.5 rebounds per game, and led his team the Huskies to the Big East tournament. He was honored, and named co-Big East player of the year, and second team all American. In addition to that , he also led the Huskies to the Elite 8 NCAA basketball tournament, in which he scored 32 points, but his team unfortunately still lost the game.

After his sophomore season, Butler decided to enter the NBA draftin the 2002 NBA draft Butler was selected as a 10th overall pick by the Miami Heat. He averaged 15 points, and 5 rebounds his rookie year. However, he got injured, and as his numbers went down, he was traded to the Lakers.

Before the 2005-06 season began, the Lakers traded Butler to the Wizards, and he signed a 5 years contract with them. He had the opportunity to be involved with the Wizards trio ‘' Big 3 ‘' all long with Gilbert Arenas, and Antawn Jamison.
Butler was eventually traded to the Mavericks, and he had to under-go a surgery to repair a torn patella tendon in his right knee, which made him miss the rest of the season, the year where the Mavericks won their first championship.

Butler signed a three year deal with the Clippers, and he had a great impact on the team, as he was one of the keys for their success two seasons ago. After that, he was then traded to the Suns in a three way trade, but later on he was traded to the Bucks, but Milwaukee eventually bought out his contract, paving the way for the Thunder to acquire him.

Pre-season Expectations:

Butler was not a part of the Thunder's training camp so we did not have expectations of him at that point. However, before he joined the Thunder, there were several expectations. Although Butler is 34, I still believed that he had great shooting abilities, especially from behind the arc. As Sefolosha was struggling with his own 3-point shooting, Butler was expected to fill in an important need for the Thunder and help their perimeter game.

Regular Season Grade:

Grade_c_medium

Butler generally met the expectations for his own performance. He came to the Thunder as a 3-point specialist, and that is primarily what he did in helping the Thunder in their shooting from behind the arc. He averaged 10.5 points per game and 4.1 rebounds per game. The problem was that Butler was immediately was elevated a high status on the team despite not playing with them for very long, and it came at the expense of the Thunder's younger players like Jeremy Lamb and Perry Jones. He helped stabilize the offense, but it limited their upside as well.

Post Season Grade:

Grade_d_medium

Butler's performance in the post season regressed. His shooting efficiency dropped. He averaged 6.2 points per game in the postseason. Yes, he had few games in which he recorded double digits, but overall, his performance was disappointing. His shooting woes meant that Butler had little to offer the Thunder as they fell behind the Spurs in the WCF, and ultimately saw his minutes dwindle all the way down to zero, as he was a DNP in the Thunder's final game of the series.

Most Memorable Game/Moment:

Against the kings in the regular season. Caron Butler scored 19 points off the bench, hitting 6-of-9 shots, including three 3-pointers, with three rebounds and two steals in 27 minutes.


Future Expectations:

Butler's future with the Thunder is uncertain. He certainly did not end on high note, recording a DNP in the Thunder's final loss to the Spurs. Furthermore, it may have been ominous that Butler skipped the media day exit interviews and didn't comment until he was reached by the Washington Post's Michael Lee:

"I don't know," Butler said when asked what he thought about his future. "I have to sit back and think about some things. It's going to be a minute before I get over this one, though."

Butler is nearing the end of his career, and it is questionable whether he has what it takes to remain with the Thunder, or if he even wants to, given the role he would likely play. Time will tell.

***

Player Grades Explained:

A: Far exceeded expectations

B: Exceeded expectations

C: Met expectations

D: Did not meet expectations

F: Fell far short of expectations

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