Caron Butler is not all bad and he’s no scapegoat, but he’s also having the worst season of his career (aside from his second year in the league).
Sure, a new system is tough. But Butler sells himself as a pro’s pro, a vet’s vet. And not to say he doesn’t possess those qualities, but he still has a big step to take to be a ‘next-level’ player and not some flash-in-the-pan two time All-Star.
Flip Saunders has implored Gilbert Arenas to push the ball and attack the basket. With that, offense should be created. Caron shifting his role back to number two, where he’s rightly supposed to sit in the team’s pecking order, shouldn’t involve him fading into the background, nor should it involve him forcing it.
This season, Caron’s game has been everywhere on the spectrum except balanced. He needs to adjust his offensive approach to create for the team, and not just for himself. The him-first approach is why he is averaging a career low 1.7 assists/36 minutes and why he has a 41.4 FG% that’s only better than his sophomore slump season in Miami, Dwyane Wade’s rookie year.
Sure Arenas cools down many buildings in which he plays with 40.2% from the field, and sure the Wizards have 99 problems … but Caron Butler is one.
Simply put, the way Butler plays offense is hurting his team. A sample of the good and bad, mostly bad, was on display against Sacramento.
Let’s check out Butler’s first half against the Kings.
Shot #1 >> 1Q – 8:38
Haywood rebounds and outlets to Butler who pushes it up the court. At 19 seconds, Haywood gives Butler a ball screen.
There’s a switch and the 6’11″ Jason Thompson is guarding Butler, but Caron comes off the screen and goes absolutely no where.
While his teammates watch the action, Caron dribbles four times and pulls up for a jumper with 16 seconds on the shot clock and without anyone else touching the ball.
Shot #2 >> 1Q – 8:10
Caron catches the ball in transition …
He takes two dribbles and uses a long stride to …
Split Jason Thompson and Tyreke Evans and get to the rim … nice, aggressive move.
Shot #3 >> 1Q – 5:06
Butler posts and catches the ball on the right wing with six seconds on the shot clock.
He faces up to Ime Udoka, gives an unproductive pump fake, a half-hearted jab step and pulls up with three seconds on the shot clock. Sure, time is running out, but why must Caron always find himself facing up further away from the basket than from where he started?
He has a couple inches and some pounds on Udoka. This is Butler’s chance to operate closer to the hoop.
Shot #4 >> 2Q – 6:20
Caron catches the ball on a left wing post …
But by the time he faces up, he’s at the three point line with six seconds on the shot clock …
With his teammates clearing the lane for him, he makes a left to right dribble that goes less than a foot laterally and pulls up for a jumper.
Shot #5 >> 2Q – 5:12
Butler bails out Boykins, who picked up his dribble, by making himself available in the right short corner.
He catches the ball with eight seconds on the shot clock, faces up, fakes baseline … and he looks to have the baseline, especially because Haywood has Thompson pinned behind him, but …
Caron backs off, takes another dribble, and pulls up for a contested shot with five seconds on the shot clock.
Shot #6 >> 2Q – 3:21
Caron runs off a Haywood screen on the left block and catches the ball at the top of the arc. Donte Greene is giving him plenty of space.
Caron takes some dribbles to get a closer shot, Greene continues to give him space, and Butler pulls up for something less contested, right in his range.
Even though he shoots with 14 seconds on the shot clock, this is a good attempt within the early offense and within Butler’s ability, especially because he dribbled toward the hoop and not laterally.
The prerequisite traveling call >> 2Q – 2:08
Caron makes a lateral jab step with his left foot when he had established his right as his pivot foot. Butler then makes a move to the basket with his right foot first.
Shot #7 >> 2Q – 1:32
Caron catches the ball deeper than normal against Greene and faces up.
He gives a jab step and Udoka knows he’s about the shoot (scouting report), so he goes to help. After his jab, Caron waits for Greene to recover and for Udoka’s help to get closer. His shot is mid-range, but it’s also more contested because he hesitates.
Caron’s eighth shot of the first half came via a one-handed tip rebound miss that Dominic McGuire ended up slamming home with 2.2 seconds left in the second. Not his fault. Still, he finished the half shooting 2-8, 25% from the field.
Maybe Caron thinks some of these shots are make-able. But from where I stand, the lateral dribbles, the contested shots, the waste of time serves as a hindrance to the flow of Flip Saunders’ offense. Butler’s strength is mid-range shooting, and the Wizards’ offensive woes this year are well-documented, but that doesn’t mean Caron needs to put on horse-blinders and focus on his own contributions while ceasing his ability to create for others. Maybe the current tactics can get him going in the short run, but they are hurting his team in the long run.
More focus. Better decisions. Don’t drive when there’s a shot and don’t shoot when there’s a drive. Work closer to the basket for better opportunities. The team obviously needs to do a better job in these areas as a whole. But Caron Butler stepping his game up would be a nice start.
Note: If I have time, I’ll break down Butler’s second half against Sacramento.