Caron Butler’s biggest contributions came when we least expected them.
In the regular season.
Brought in three-quarters through the season after agreeing to a buyout with Milwaukee, Butler was supposed to provide veteran leadership, playoff experience, toughness, defense and 3-point shooting. Some of those things he provided. Just not when the Thunder needed them most.
It made the Caron Butler experiment a failed one.
Butler struggled so much in the postseason that by the time the Thunder faced elimination in Game 6 against San Antonio, he was benched in the biggest game of the year. Butler didn’t play a second.
It was a disappointing end to a signing that initially had seemed so promising.
In 18 postseason games, Butler averaged 6.3 points on 32.4 percent shooting, both career lows.
In 22 regular-season games, Butler averaged 9.7 points on 40.9 percent shooting and enjoyed the most accurate 3-point shooting of his career with a 44.1 percent clip.
Who knows what the difference was?
All we know is that the Thunder didn’t expect Butler to labor through such a brutal stretch at such a pivotal point. He was brought in with an eye toward the playoffs, a piece that could potentially help the Thunder get over the hump in its quest for a championship. Instead, Butler’s minutes shrunk before ultimately disappearing in his final act.
Worst of all was how Butler’s presence stunted the growth of integral pieces for the future.