Would Tayshaun's Mavs Numbers Exceed Caron's?

DB.com is being told that Tayshaun Prince remains near the top of the Mavs' trade-deadline wish list (regardless of pronouncements from Detroit regarding his ‘unavailability'). Among the judgments to be made: Would a swapping of Caron Butler's expiring for Tayshaun mean that Prince would adequately replace Caron in the Dallas lineup? Let's make some judgments.

The injured Caron Butler's $10.6-million expiring deal is the centerpiece of every conversation the Dallas Mavericks are having regarding a "major'' trade. The goal: Attempt to make a trade that would return the quality of the Mavs roster to where it was before Caron's injury (and where it was was 24-5)… and to use the Butler as the piece to do it.

Would Tayshaun Prince accomplish that?

Prince is also an expiring contract (worth $11.1 million), might be available without paying "blockbuster prices'' (that is, bloated additional contracts that hamstring Dallas in the future) and, we've theorized, has a skill set that can match Butler's overall effectiveness.

Let's go about proving that.

Our friend Marc Stein's ESPN tweet that the Pistons are "putting out word they don't want to deal Prince by the Feb. 24 deadline" is immaterial to the Mavs except in the sense that it sounds like a negotiating tactic. We've established that Detroit might want to retain Prince as a mentor during its rebuilding period. But "putting out word'' on Feb. 3 about what you plan to NOT do on Feb. 24?

A negotiating tactic.

So let's move forward.

Prince's defensive credentials (he's a four-time All-NBA Defender second-team) cannot be questioned. As we've written, what they say about Prince is, "He knows where he's supposed to be and he knows where his opponent is supposed to be.'' Prince was a stopper on a championship team and can still be a lockdown individual defender. He's smart enough to fit into any defensive scheme and excel.

Offensively is where the Tayshaun/Caron comparison gets a little fuzzy. Let's review with 2010 statistics per 36 minutes.

General Offensive Statistics :

Caron Butler Tayshaun Prince

PPG 18.1 15.6

RPG 4.9 4.9

SPG 0.3 0.3

BPG 0.7 0.7

3P% (career) 31.9% 37.0%

What this means: Just looking at these basic per 36 numbers, Caron is a better piece. Obviously there is more to it, which is why GMs don't make personnel decisions based on looking at the back of trading cards. Although Caron has a better 3-point percentage this season, Prince owns that advantage over their careers by quite a ways. With this plus the basic Eye Test though, Caron gets the nod.

Edge: Butler

Shot Selection :

Caron Butler Tayshaun Prince

FGA 15.7 13.9

FG% 45% 48%

% shots as jumper 84% 70%

% shots near basket 14% 25%

% shots as dunk 2% 4%

% shots as tip-in 1% 1%

What this means : Prince is shooting a better field-goal percentage than Caron for an obvious reason… he shoots closer to the rim. You know why they call shots closer to the basket "high-percentage shots''? Because they have a better chance of going in. Prince gives himself better odds by shooting closer. He also plays more minutes, but takes fewer shots. This depends on a few factors, but it's most likely because he just gets fewer plays called for him in Detroit's offense. When Caron was healthy, he would get a bulk of the Dallas offense called for him while Dirk was out. The dunk numbers are slightly in the corner of Prince, but not enough to make a big difference. Efficiency is in Prince's favor, although it's not totally clear how an increased workload would affect him.

Edge: Slightly Prince

Decision Making :

Caron Butler Tayshaun Prince

USG% 25.6% 21.2%

AST 1.9 3.1

TO 2.0 1.3

TOV% 10.5% 7.8%

PER 15.9 14.5

What this means : Caron has a higher usage rate (percentage of team involvement), but when evened out he averaged over three more turnovers per 100 possessions. Tayshaun averages over an assist more per 36 minutes than Caron which we feel is an indictment to his basketball IQ. Many will argue that Caron's stats slipped when he came to Dallas due to a lower usage rate, and while that may be true to an extent, Caron hasn't averaged at least 3.1 assists since 2008-09. He also only averaged 2.1 dimes with Washington last year. Additionally, the Pistons play at a slower pace, averaging nearly four possessions less than the Mavericks per game.

Edge: Prince

Clutch Situations : (5 minutes or less in 4th quarter and overtime, game within 5 points)

Butler Prince

% of clutch min. played 46% 95%

FG% 60.0% 51.4%

FGA per 48 clutch min 7.1 17.6

PTS per 48 clutch min 18.5 20.4

FT per 48 clutch min 10.0 4.8

What this means: These are tough statistics to decipher due to Caron's lack of minutes during clutch play. When Caron was healthy, coach Rick Carlisle opted for Shawn Marion at SF the majority of the time down the stretch. If the Mavs were losing, he would even opt for a three-guard lineup over Caron at times. Butler has good clutch numbers, though, and it's clear he can get to the line in this limited sample. Tayshaun has extensive work in clutch situations during his career so you'd have to consider him over Caron since Dirk or Jet would be taking most of the shots anyway. Perhaps even over a player like Marion. But since Caron's resume is incomplete, a call can't be made.

Edge: Push

Intangibles :

Caron Butler Tayshaun Prince

Hands Rating 9.0 16.6

What this means : Hands rating is a combination of turnovers that includes offensive fouls, bad passes, ball-handling turnovers, fumbling the ball away, and other turnovers (traveling, stepping out of bounds, etc.) As a point of reference, Shawn Marion had a 6.7 hands rating. Basically, it takes into account how often a player will make a silly mistake. These numbers translate to Prince playing much more mistake-free than Caron over the same period of time.

Edge: Prince

Chemistry : Tayshaun has almost always been a good soldier despite the direction of the Pistons. Even though he has what seems like a legitimate gripe, we have to take into consideration the idea that he has finally "checked out" of his situation in Detroit. Caron is like a brother to a lot of the guys in Dallas. The cohesion of the team was at an all-time high before he went down. You always hear about the toughness Tuff Juice bring to the table and that cannot be discounted.

Oh, and then there is projected chemistry: Would anybody in the Dallas locker room fail to understand the business decision of trading Caron? We hope not.

Would Tayshaun, who turns 31 this month, be embraced in Dallas? Prince's first NBA coach was Carlisle, and when Tayshaun was a superstar high-school player at Dominguez High School in Compton, Calif., he had a 14-year-old freshman teammate by the name of Tyson Chandler.

Edge: Butler

Verdict : Close enough that you can make the call here yourself … and you can lean whichever way you wish if you care to count "intangibles'' like:

The Mavs are in the playoffs against the Lakers, Game 6 in Dallas, Mavs are up in the series 3-2, and if they lose they have to go back to LA for Game 7. The Mavs are up 97-96, one possession left for the Lakers, who do you want guarding Kobe Bryant?

If you can pull a trade so that your "clutch" defensive lineup is Kidd-Prince-Marion-Dirk-Chandler (or some combination to that effect), do you do it based on that thinking?

Or, is Tayshaun-as-a-Mav good enough to help the Mavs ever be in that above situation in the first place?

We haven't pieced together exact how a Caron-for-Tayshaun swap might go down in terms of additional pieces, but here's nuggets to play with:

1 Another network reporter this week relayed that "Dallas can't get Tayshaun because Detroit can't take on salaries.'' Respectfully, that demonstrates a lack of understanding for what has been/will be discussed. Dallas won't ask Detroit to "take on salaries''; it will likely be the other way around.

2 An idea: The Mavs send out Caron Butler (expiring at $10.6 million) + DeShawn Stevenson (expiring at $4.2 million) + a grab-bag of picks/cash. Coming back, Tayshaun (expiring at 11.1 million) + Jason Maxiell (this year and two more years at $5 million each).

3 A problem: DB.com is being told that there are those in the Mavs personnel dept. who are not at all enamored with Maxiell at that price. (Or maybe at most any price.)

So there's the "bloated contract'' that might send these sort of talks back to the drawing board, a drawing board that begins with a simple question:

Would Tayshaun Prince be a Caron-level replacement for Butler?

At the right price, the Mavs believe so.

Armed with the above stats, now you can form your own more educated opinion.

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