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You have to give a lot of credit to Caron Butler for working so hard to play for his team during the post-season. Butler only played 29 games for the Mavericks before he ruptured his right patella tendon on New Years Day against the Milwaukee Bucks. At the time, Dirk Nowitzki was also out with an injury and it things were starting to look bleak for the Mavericks. They had a 4-10 stretch between December 28th and January 20th that included a season high seven-game losing streak.
Of course, after Dirk returned and got back into his rhythm, the Mavs instantly went on a 10-game winning streak, put together a 16-1 stretch to make up for their lull in January and ended up closing the season just behind the Lakers for second place in the Western Conference. Peja Stojakovic started some games in Butler’s place after the Mavericks signed him away from the Toronto Raptors once he cleared waivers but ultimately Rick Carlisle decided on Shawn Marion as the team’s starting small forward entering the post-season.
Once again, Butler deserves a ton of credit for working every day to get back into the line-up rather than just letting the season go by before rehabbing in the off-season. Every series their seemed to be a rumor about Butler feeling 100% and only needing doctor’s approval before suiting up again. But the team doctors never gave the go-ahead and Butler never played a playoff game for Dallas. I’m sure Butler would have given anything to make an impact for his team in the Finals or at any point in the post-season but if we’re being honest here, Dallas didn’t need him at any point in the playoffs nor did they need to acquire him from the Wizards last season other than for financial purposes.
Throughout his entire career Butler has been a volume scorer, a Monta Ellis with less flash, efficiency and effectiveness. The kind of player that took 13 shots to score 15 points a night, wasn’t a frequent visitor to the free throw line and wasn’t a very good creator unless he was looking for his own mid-range shot. Having a player like Butler on a team that desperately needs offense isn’t such a bad thing because he can score and he can get decent looks for himself, but on a team like Dallas, a mediocre scoring on the wing isn’t a role that’s needed to be filled.
Over the course of 29 games in 2010-2011, Butler did knock down 43% of his three-pointers and if that could have kept up then Butler would have been a completely different player for the Mavs. That being said, given the small sample size and Butler’s career three-point percentage of 32% make it hard to believe Butler’s hot start wasn’t a fluke.
The way things played out, with Shawn Marion playing excellent defense during the first three rounds on the likes of Brandon Roy, Kobe Bryant, Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant, and Peja Stojakovic hitting over 40% of his three’s in the first two rounds, Dallas was better off without Butler in the post-season. If Butler had made a comeback at any point in the post-season, not only would he be playing below his normal level, which, again, is not all that great, but he would mess up the rotations that Dallas thrived on during the post-season. I realize that a small forward was dropped from the rotation in the Finals (Peja) but that allowed for the Mavs to give Marion heavy minutes, move J.J. Barea into the starting line-up and use DeShawn Stevenson as a perimeter defender/three-point shooter off the bench in his place. Had Butler come back, Marion, Barea or Stevenson would have had to play fewer minutes and those guys were all fantastic in the playoffs, leaving little reason to decrease their playing time.
Butler will be a free agent this summer and though I’ve bad mouthed his game to some extent, there is still a market for him – I just don’t think he was a great fit for a Dallas team that had plenty of offense without him. Butler can score and if he can keep up his accuracy from deep he will definitely make a team happy for signing him. The only issue facing Butler other than how he recovers from his leg injury is his age. At 31, it may be a bit harder for him to consistently get his own shot. Still, wherever he ends up next season, he’s going to score the ball and even if his game starts to decline he can at least take homage in this fact: Caron Butler is an NBA Champion.