Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Curious Case of Caron


That's the number of players that have a higher 3PT field goal percentage than Caron Butler's FG%...at the rim.


Now, understand, that we're about two weeks into the season. DeJuan Summers is not going to shoot 100% for the rest of the year, or shoot enough to qualify that mark. But still. In his stay with Dallas so far, Butler has a 45.8 FG% at the rim. That, put bluntly, is absolutely horrible and unacceptable for the kind of player Butler is and his role on the Mavericks.

To compare, Dirk Nowitzki's percentage at the rim hasn't been lower than 59% in the last four years. Same for Jason Terry. Even Jason Kidd - the only point guard in the league that appears allergic to layups - has never posted a field goal percentage below 51 in his time with Dallas.

So what gives? The strange thing is that Butler hasn't posted anything this poor over the last four years. From 2007-2009 his FG% at the tim was 59, 69 and 63, respectively. And this is with about one more shot attempt at the rim per game to boot. What's the diagnoses? It's hard to tell. Butler has been an above average finisher at the rim for most of his career. He's always been an excellent free throw shooter. Whatever it is that's plaguing Butler at the rim, it needs to be fixed and fixed soon. We can only hope that as the season continues, Butler's at the rim percentage simply reverts to his career norm. If it doesn't, the Mavericks could be in for a woeful offensive season.

But don't expect those mid-range jump shots to start falling that much more regularly. His highest FG% from 16-23 feet was actually his stint with Dallas, a 48 percent mark. He's hovered between the high 30's and the low 40's otherwise. But, he always managed to shoot a respectable percentage and score a decent number of points by attacking the basket and getting to the free throw line.

When the Mavericks shipped away Josh Howard for Caron Butler and Brandon Haywood last winter, the consensus was that Butler would be able to provide, at worst, Howard's production level. While the offensive woes have been detailed, the defense hasn't been much better. Monday nights win over Boston was a prime example as Paul Pierce toyed with Butler to get off any shot he wanted. Understand that defense in the NBA is more than just contesting a shot. It's forcing players out of their comfort zones. Putting a hand in Dirk's face as he's falling away might look like good defense, but if he's doing it from the free throw line or the left wing? Forget it. Players make good shots when they are in their comfort zones. Butler allowed Pierce to catch the ball wherever he wanted and lost him in transition a couple of times. As a result, Shawn Marion played almost all of the fourth quarter, posted a +10 (for what it's worth) and Pierce wasn't heard from with much regularity down the stretch as he was in the third.

And there isn't even the "well he's not used to being a second option." Butler has been just about every option possible during his stints with the Heat, Lakers, Wizards and Mavs. He's gone from third to second to first to second and almost everything around that. If Caron Butler doesn't turn it around, the Maverick's Jekyll/Hyde offense is going to have lasting problems.

(Advanced stats courtesy of Hoopdata.com)


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