Best Potential Free-Agent Landing Spots for Caron Butler
UPDATE on Thursday, Feb. 27 at 5:20 p.m. ET by Adam Fromal
We won't have to wait long for Caron Butler to make his decision.
After all, ESPN's Ramon Shelburne tweeted the following: "Decision for Caron Butler has been tough (Heat, OKC, Bulls, Spurs) but he's expecting to decide Friday, sources said."
All four teams could certainly use help from one more small forward, so fans of those organizations (and one other) should keep their fingers crossed and hope for the best.
--End of update--
Don't think too hard, Caron Butler.
Gery Woelfel of the Journal Times first reported that the Milwaukee Bucks and their veteran small forward were in discussions to complete a buyout. Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports reported Thursday that an agreement has been reached.
That means he'd clear waivers by Saturday morning and have to hurry to meet the deadline, which looms at midnight on Saturday, March 1. Once that time arrives, free agents who sign with new teams are no longer eligible to play in the postseason.
That timeframe shouldn't worry Butler, though, as he's going to draw serious interest from a number of teams. According to Wojnarowski the Oklahoma City Thunder and Miami Heat are reportedly the early favorites to bring in Butler, with the Chicago Bulls and San Antonio Spurs also in the mix.
Butler's shot wouldn't fall consistently during his final season with the Bucks, but there's no doubt the 33-year-old small forward can contribute both on the court and in the locker room as a solid veteran presence.
Tuff Juice will find a new home. Rest assured of that.
When your starting small forward has a jumper that looks like what you can see up above, you might still need some shooting help. No offense, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.
The Charlotte Bobcats figured to be aggressive buyers at the trade deadline, especially as they searched for ways to shore up their outside-shooting deficiencies. Luke Ridnour and Gary Neal will both help, but that's not a big enough splash for this beleaguered franchise—especially as it's finally hoping to make it back to the postseason.
That's where Butler comes in.
Even during a season that has seen him slumping for a dismal Milwaukee Bucks organization, Butler is still making 1.6 triples per game while shooting 36.1 percent from beyond the arc. To put that in perspective, not a single player on the Charlotte roster is outpacing him when lofting up perimeter jumpers.
The Bobcats would have to find a way to make room for Butler and it would be awfully difficult to convince him to join Charlotte rather than another free-agent suitor with a better shot at a championship.
But if playing time is desired, then this would be a great option. With Anthony Tolliver and Chris Douglas-Roberts currently serving as the backup small forwards, Butler would certainly be able to find more minutes than he might elsewhere.
Only having 13 healthy players on the Chicago Bulls roster almost seems mean.
Tom Thibodeau's penchant for overplaying his top guys is well-known at this point and he could do even more damage to their futures if he doesn't have capable backups to play. Right now, those are rather limited in the Windy City.
Particularly on the wings.
Unless Thibs decides that he wants to play Tornike Shengelia in anything other than garbage time, Tony Snell is the only player capable of backing up shooting guards and small forwards. And if he's called into action as a starter, then the Bulls are just about out of options.
Seriously, this is the current depth chart on the wings, according to Rotoworld:
- Shooting guard: Jimmy Butler, Tony Snell
- Small forward: Mike Dunleavy, Tornike Shengelia
The Bulls need to find a way to add depth before injuries start piling up and prevent Chicago from making any sort of run during the postseason. It'll be hard to do that more effectively than by adding Butler.
Just go ahead and pencil Butler into the Miami Heat roster for the rest of the season. Hell, go ahead and use a sharpie.
Technically, nothing is guaranteed, but it might as well be.
As Bleacher Report's Ethan Skolnick postulated on Twitter, "If the Heat sign Butler, you wouldn't be able to wipe smile off Wade's face for a while."
Not only is Butler exactly the type of player the Heat could use after seeing Shane Battier decline and few three-point shooters step up to replace him, but the former Milwaukee Buck and Dwyane Wade are close friends. They may only have played together during Wade's rookie season, which came a decade ago now, but that's not a deterrent.
"If that's the impression Butler left in two years, as an inexperienced neophyte, imagine what he can do as a veteran who's been around the block and back multiple times," wrote Bleacher Report's Dan Favale about the small forward's status as a respected player in the Miami organization.
Butler's kick-out threes are deadly, and that's a major part of Miami's drive-and-dish offense. He'd be even deadlier if he was playing in a pleasant situation next to friends rather than laboring away for the team right at the bottom of the NBA totem pole.
The Heat aren't guaranteed to sign Butler, but it sure feels that way.
As it should.
Oklahoma City Thunder
The Oklahoma City Thunder don't need veteran experience, but it would be an upgrade in the small forward rotation.
Perry Jones III has been impressive during his second go-round in the Association, but he's still averaging only 3.5 points, 1.7 rebounds and 0.4 assists per game. His defense has been spectacular at times, even if he's inexperienced, inconsistent and occasionally impotent from the perimeter.
Especially with only a dozen healthy bodies on the roster—including Hasheem Thabeet, who shouldn't really count—the Thunder need another contributor. NBA.com's David Aldridge reports on Twitter that OKC is indeed exploring the possibility of adding Butler.
Kevin Durant's scoring exploits may have left you convinced that the Thunder are an offensive team. However, that's not entirely true.
Basketball-Reference.com shows that OKC is scoring 109.6 points per 100 possessions, giving the team the No. 6 offensive rating in the NBA. However, the Thunder are also allowing only 102.6 points over the same span, which is a mark trailing only the Indiana Pacers, Chicago Bulls and Golden State Warriors.
These Thunder are grounded in two-way excellence, but the defensive identity reigns supreme. Butler wouldn't change that.
According to 82games.com, he's held opposing small forwards to an 11.9 player efficiency rating during the 2013-14 season.
San Antonio Spurs
According to Aldridge, the San Antonio Spurs are also looking into the possibility of adding Butler to the roster.
Back in 2011, Butler flirted with the Spurs after his time with the Dallas Mavericks was over. ESPNDallas.com's Jeff Caplan reported on the initial overtures:
Dallas Mavericks free agent Caron Butler enjoyed his Wednesday morning visit with the archrival San Antonio Spurs so much that he felt compelled to tweet about it.
"Just met with Spurs great visit first class all the way ..." Butler said in his tweet.
Yahoo! Sports reported that the Spurs will use the one-time amnesty clause written into the new collective bargaining agreement to jettison small forward Richard Jefferson, who is due to earn $9.2 million this season and $30 million over the next three.
Reached after his meeting with the Spurs and moments after the report of the Spurs' decision to amnesty Jefferson, Butler said via text message: "I was flattered."
Three years later, this could still happen.
The San Antonio roster is nearly overflowing with shooting guards, but very few players are true small forwards like Butler. Kawhi Leonard is one, and Austin Daye—who was just acquired at the trade deadline and is more of a long-term reclamation project—could be considered another.
That's it. Danny Green can play at the 3, but he's always been a 2-guard at heart.
The Spurs, especially since they've been beset by so much injury difficulty, could stand to add one more veteran who they know with 100 percent certainty is capable of making contributions right away.