Years with Clippers: 2
2012-2013 Salary: $8,000,000
Contract Status: Signed through next year for $8,000,000
In a nutshell:
Forgive me for this brief flashback. Draft day, 2002. A 6-7' wing from a major conference who shot 40% from beyond the arc, with a clear ability to defend at an NBA level, averaged 20 points and 7.5 rebounds for UCONN (and was unguardable in the NCAA tournament) was available at number 8. That player, was one Caron "Tuff Juice" Butler. But Elgin Baylor and the rest of the draft day team saw fit to Draft project power forward Chris Wilcox at number 8 instead (a fact made even more maddening when you consider that the Clippers already had Elton Brand on the roster). The good old days!
The Caron Butler that the Clippers acquired all these years later is not quite the player he was. Although we still see occasional flashes of athleticism with Butler finishing at the rim, he is primarily a jump shooter at this point in his career. He is no longer the elite rebounder he was for his whole career, and in fact, his numbers are down pretty much across the board since he joined the Clippers. He served the 2013 season as the teams starting small forward, but often found himself on the bench in crunch time, with Vinny Del Negro favoring Matt Barnes down the stretch.
Caron Butler earned his nickname. The guy is fearless, quick to stand up for his teammates. Offensively, he shot an impressive .388 from beyond the arc this season, providing some much needed floor spreading for the starting unit. He is a reliable free throw shooter, and like fellow veteran Chauncey Billups, an outstanding locker room presence and positive role model. Though injury kept him from playing in the Finals, he was a strong presence and contributor for the Champion Dallas Mavericks 2 years ago.
Caron Butler used to be a guy who could do it all. He was a gritty defender, a solid jumpshooter with three point range, and was explosive getting to the basket and finishing at the rim. He used to get to the free throw line as much as 6 times a game, and was one of the best rebounding small forwards in recent memory. But with age and injury, much of that athletic ability has been lost. Caron is still a smart player, but the majority of his shot attempts now are three's and long two's. His ability to attack the rim used to allow him to create for others ( he was a player who averaged above 4 assists a game a couple of time with the Wizards) something we don't really see anymore. While his strength and consistent effort allow him to have some success in preventing typical 3's from beating him physically in the low block, he doesn't quite seem to have the lateral quickness to keep quicker players in front of him.
Future with the Clippers:
The Clippers have had back to back years of record setting franchise success, and there's no doubt that they would not have been as successful as they were without Tuff Juice. But At $8 million dollars, Caron's expiring deal makes him one of the Clippers most enticing trade pieces. He would be a valuable addition to the bench of a contender or to a young team looking for veteran leadership. For the Clippers, it's clear that an upgrade at one or both of the starting wing positions is required, and as a result, Butler is most likely gone (If not this summer, than by the trade deadline). His two years here were a certainly a success. He helped add legitimacy to a franchise that has long had none. It's a shame that he didn't start his career in LA, but Clipper Nation was lucky to have him at all.