Here we are, finally at the last ’07-08 player evaluation……and the best was saved. My thoughts on Caron Butler’s season are below, head over to Bullets Forever to check what Prada and Jake think as well.
Etan Thomas | Oleksiy Pecherov | Dominic McGuire | Nick Young | Andray Blatche | Roger Mason|
Darius Songaila | Antonio Daniels | DeShawn Stevenson | Brendan Haywood | Gilbert Arenas | Antawn Jamison
Sure he was an All-Star in the previous season, but what does that mean? Don’t get me wrong, I am far from discrediting the accolade. But in that instance, the door was simply open to any naysayers to opine that Butler’s merits were the result of playing alongside budding superstar, Gilbert Arenas. By the way, I am not one of these naysayers, Caron earned every bit of his ’06-07 All-Star selection himself.
At the same time, things come easier when opposing defenses place a brunt of their focus on a teammate. How would Caron respond with the Agent Zero comfort blanket pulled out from under him?
Fortunately, and unfortunately, Wizards fans were granted the opportunity to see just what kind of special player they had in Butler with Arenas only appearing in eight inconsistent games in the ’07-08 season’s early going.
Before the All-Star break, Butler averaged 21.4 points, 6.8 boards, 4.5 assists, 2.4 steals on 47.6% from the field and 91.3% from the free-throw line. His season totals were all career highs save for rebounds. Also add Butler to the list of those helped by shooting coach Dave Hopla as his 66 made threes on the season were a 61% increase over his previous career high and his 90.1 FT% was 6th in the NBA.
Butler’s 20.95 PER was good enough for 22nd in the league, according to KnickerBlogger.Net, and 82games.com tells us that Butler was one of the top 15 clutch players in the league….”clutch” meaning average points scored per 48 minutes of clutch time which is under 5 minutes left in the 4th quarter or overtime of a game where neither team holds a lead greater than five points. He was also 8th in the league in Inside FG%……if Tuff Juice got into the paint, you could pretty much count the bucket.
One would almost think that Caron Butler is perfect….well, he’s not. If there’s one beef I had with Butler is that he settled for mid-range shots too much. Dude has a decent sized body, and often seemed to be matched up against smaller players. I’d like to see Butler increase his mid-range post game workload, and draw more fouls leading to trips to the FT line. As much as he is counted on to score, Butler needs to boost that 9% foul draw percentage.
Overall, I’m ecstatic that Caron Butler came into his own. I sleep better at night knowing that he, along with Jamison, are the true heart and soul of the team, and that Butler is locked up for a reasonable three more years at $30 million. But those who thought that Ernie Grunfeld should have gotten rid of Gilbert Arenas and built around Caron Butler were severely kidding themselves.
In the long run, teams with championship hopes need scorers with killer instinct such as Arenas. Not saying that Gilbert is a sure thing, but he was the best option under the given circumstances. I’m also not saying that Caron doesn’t have killer instinct, but he can’t do it alone. A team with Caron as the best scorer will not go far when it counts.
Just take a look at Butler’s scoring stats versus Poor (24.3), Average (18.0), and Good (17.4) teams. It’s nice that he’s 9th in the league in scoring against Poor teams, but we need the effort to be sustained versus the best of the best. [For the record, Kobe scored 27.5 against Poor, 27.4 against Average, and 30.0 against Good; Paul Pierce scored 17.8 against Poor, 19.9 against Average, and 22.0 against Good.]
Yes, Caron was a big reason as to why the Wizards made the playoffs without Arenas. However, it’s my opinion that Caron is more of a James Worthy type player who, while more than integral to a championship run, is not going to lead his team to a ring. That’s not to say that Caron can’t be “the” team leader…..I’d rather him play that role more than anyone else. Plus, everyone could use a shot of Tuff Juice before games.
I’d be remiss if I did not mention Caron Butler’s injury….and I can’t believe I neglected to do so when it was on my mind. He missed the five games before the All-Star break, and came back about a month later when most thought that his left hip labral tear would keep him out for the season.
Butler’s post injury numbers certainly dropped off across the board…..well, his assists went up. We could all tell that the injury affected him to some degree, how much, we’ll never know. Why? Because Caron Butler never said a word about it. He’s the type of person, as we’ve come to find out, who would never even consider playing the injury card. And it’s because of this, more than anything else he’s done on the court, that I’ve gained the utmost respect for Butler.
Like I’ve said, a team can’t win a championship without a scorer akin to Gilbert Arenas, but at the same time, a team certainly won’t get a banner without someone like Caron Butler.
Next Evaluation: Coach Eddie Jordan