Caron Butler’s season has been itchy and uncomfortable. Before missing the last two games with a troublesome back, Butler was shooting plenty, but accomplishing little. His problem isn’t inconsistency, but a far more worrisome inefficiency; Butler still fancies himself a premier offensive talent, but his shooting percentages are more emblematic of a reserve chucker. Flip Murray would tell Butler to take it down a notch. Corey Brewer would scoff at Caron’s stat lines.
Butler is still putting up a few points for the Mavs (he’s averaging 14.7 per game this season), but doing so while shooting 39.1% from the field isn’t exactly kosher. There’s no question that Butler’s offensive performance thus far has been unacceptable, and if the current trends — both in Caron’s inefficiency and his insistence to play a central offensive role — continue, serious changes will need to be made. I’ve never been sold on Butler as a clear-cut starter over Shawn Marion to begin with, both of their egos be damned. Rick Carlisle has shown that he’s not afraid to make rotation changes based on his own sense of direction, and if his compass points toward Marion even slightly, he shouldn’t hesitate to mix up the lineups. Starting jobs are an inanely sensitive thing in the NBA, but Caron’s feelings are removed from the foreground if he ceases to produce at a level worthy of his starting distinction.
Butler needs to bounce back in a big way. His starting job depends on it. And, in a sense, his future as a Maverick depends on it.
As ESPN.com’s Marc Stein indicated in the Weekend Dime, Butler isn’t exactly rooted in Dallas. The Mavs’ desire to ship up their offense combined with Butler’s imminently dealable expiring contract make for an interesting combination, and if an attractive deal comes along at any point before the trade deadline, I think it’s a safe bet to assume that Butler will be dangled on the line, sweetened with DeShawn Stevenson’s expiring deal and the promise of a few draft picks. Tyson Chandler was once in the same boat, but in eight games, he’s made himself invaluable. At this point, Butler isn’t even all that valuable. He’s been below average even from a scoring standpoint, and has legitimately hurt the Mavs in his minutes on the floor. Dallas would be crazy to deal Chandler, but if they managed to trade Butler for a useful player? That’s just good business.
It would be ridiculous to wrap Butler’s year in just six games. He still has plenty of time to salvage his shooting marks, his usage rate, and his performance in general. Butler can still make sense of his role in the Mavs’ system, and use his talents toward more positive ends. That change just needs to come sooner rather than later, lest Butler’s itchy performance demands to be scratched.