The stage is set for him to do it again.
As Mavs Training Day begins next week, DallasBasketball.com continues its series of Mavs Player Previews … a few per day between now and the Monday Media Day … with Caron Butler, Version 2010-11.
What Is Working. The last time we saw Tuff Juice, he was putting up back-to-back games of 35 and 25 points in Games 5 and 6 against San Antonio in the playoffs.
That would be nice.
Overall, his post-trade numbers were acceptable, too, at 15.2 points and 5.4 rebounds per while adjusting to a new team and a new position. He devoted himself this summer to a workout program, he's a heck of a good story and seems like a good cat … and at 6-7, he's a very difficult cover and is physically the sort of swingman the Mavs have long been in desperate search of.
To keep it all in perspective: The Mavs acquired him, along with another starter in Brendan Haywood, for Josh Howard and Drew Gooden. He represents an upgrade over what was here before – and with the straw-chewing and the Burger-Kinging and the human success story, he represents lots of feel-good potential for this team.
What Isn't Working. There were times in Washington when Butler (with no Arenas around) tried and failed to be The Man. He was highly inconsistent in a secondary role in Dallas, too, often relying too much on the jumpshot instead of his creativity on the move.
We've got statistical proof of that: Butler shot 34.0 percent from the arc in his time in Dallas. That wouldn't be a problem, except that it came in tandem with Caron failing to put up numbers in the areas where he was desperately needed.
Last year, across the board, Butler posted his lowest PER, his lowest free-throw attempts/36, his lowest rebounding rate, and his lowest field-goal percentage since his second year in the NBA. And think about it: Those are all exactly the categories where Dallas needed his help.
What Must Work. "Tuff Juice" needs to be lean and mean. He underwhelmed coach Rick Carlisle at times in the postseason and found himself on the outside of the rotation looking in. His talent needs to be supplemented by scrambling for loose balls, by finishing at the rim and by adding to Dallas' level of ‘tude. … and he needs to be able to do some of that at the 2-guard (a position he seems to feel less comfortable with that the 3.)
Butler also needs to be a double-figure scorer … every night. This ain't brain surgery; when Caron scored 10-plus points, Dallas' record was 18-3.
Even if this thing doesn't work out on the floor, it will be salvaged: Butler's got an expiring contract ($10.8 mil for this final year) that will make him a link on a transaction chain toward chasing something better. In the meantime, Tuff Juice – who says he's more fit to be a better fit – figures to be motivated in his climb back toward stardom.
The Stat Box. Only one significant number was up from his previous season, when he posted a good +2.7 plus/minus rating last year. Time will tell whether that's because he drove some Dallas wins or because Dallas carried him to some.
The Closing Quote. "I hit a nice stride in the playoffs, and I was finding out what was expected of me and what my role was. I look forward to seeing what's going to happen." - Caron Butler.