Richie Adubato, former Dallas Mavericks head coach and current radio analyst for the Orlando Magic, believes something no one else should. Adubato believes that Caron Butler's season-ending knee injury dealt a devastating blow to the Mavericks' title chances. This erroneous conclusion Adubato has drawn presupposes that Butler's play has benefited the Mavericks this season when it reality it has not.
There was a time when Butler was an above-average player and someone on which a team could rely upon to carry a star player's portion of the offensive load, but that ship seems to have sailed sometime before the 2009-10 season. Since that season began, Butler has been struggling to even be a league average player, a quest at which he has failed.
Player Efficiency Rating, or PER, is standardized so that the league average is 15. In Butler's 47 games with the Washington Wizards in the 2009-10 season, his PER was a less than robust 13.5 and he only had an offensive rating of 101 points produced per 100 possessions, so he was being incredibly inefficient with the possessions he was receiving.
Butler's disappointing level of efficiency during his time with the Wizards that season calls into question why the Mavericks would trade for a player while he is playing at his worst, but trade for him they did, and if they believed Butler was only having a rough stretch and would bounce back, then he has proved them wrong in dramatic fashion.
During his 27 games with the Mavericks to finish off the 2009-10 season, Butler simply carried over his subpar play. His PER was still a below-average 14.2 and his offensive rating of 101 points per 100 possessions continued to indicate a player who had lost his offensive talent. After his poor play, the Mavericks were probably hoping that Butler would improve the next year given more time in head coach Rick Carlisle's system and more familiarity with his teammates.
Well, next season is here and very little has changed. Butler's PER this season is just 14.6 and his anemic offensive rating of 99 points produced per 100 possessions is the worst since his second year in the NBA.
Butler is not just bad in his own right, but he has been one of the worst Maverick players this year. His .523 true shooting percentage is eighth out of the 10 Mavericks who have played at least 10 minutes per game; only Jose Barea and Jason Kidd have been worse shooters. Butler's offensive rating is ninth among the same 10 players with only Jose Barea's 97 points produced per 100 possessions able to claim inferiority.
The trend continues with Butler's PER ranking seventh out of the 10 Mavericks; Barea, Brendan Haywood and Brian Cardinal are the ones behind him. As if it were not already bad enough, Butler's 0.071 win shares per 48 minutes is only good for ninth among the 10 Mavericks, and once again it is Barea who is worse. Why the Mavericks continue to give minutes to Barea, who is a really terrible player, is fodder for another article.
What makes Butler's poor play worse is that he before he got injured, he had the second-highest usage percentage on the team behind Dirk Nowitzki, so he was involved in the offense like a star player while producing like a below-average one. It is not hyperbole to consider that most of the team's plays Butler used were wasted, and would have been better used in the hands of pretty much anyone else on the team with the exception of Barea.
Instead of decreasing Nowitzki's offensive burden, Butler was actually making things more difficult because Nowitzki then had to make up for all the inefficient use of possessions, something Nowitzki has had to do a lot of this year.
Losing someone who at best is the eighth-most productive player on an NBA team is never going to hurt that team's title chances.
What the Mavericks need to happen in order to maintain any title chances they might have is to get Dirk Nowitzki back healthy, wait for Jason Terry to stop playing his worst basketball since his rookie season, pray Jason Kidd will stop playing the worst basketball of his career and hope Tyson Chandler and DeShawn Stevenson can continue their career-high seasons with no significant drop-off.