It's no secret that there's something wrong with Caron Butler's game. In three games thus far this season, Butler is averaging just 14 points a contest and is posting a dreadful 47.3% true shooting percentage. His PER is down to 11.5, which is barely replacement-level.
Lots of this just has to do with a small sample size, and even if Butler continues to struggle, there's no way he's going to be this bad. Nevertheless, something needs to be done in order to coax better production out of Butler. He can't continue to play and be deployed like he has to start the season.
So, below the jump, let's discuss some ways to enhance Butler's game. I posed five possibilities below, some psychological and some schematic. None of them are mutually exclusive -- you could try all five of them at once. Feel free to comment or add to the list in the comments.
1. Encourage him to be more decisive when he catches the ball
This is the method Gilbert Arenas seems to advocate the most. When asked about Butler after the loss to Miami on Wednesday, Arenas said he needs to be more aggressive.
"Shoot the open shot. Caron's a rhythm player and so, in our old system, he had enough time to get into his mojo and get those shots. In this system, he's gotta get a lot of catch and shoots, and the first initial shot he has he doesn't usually take it. And everything closes up from there. He's just got to get used to catching and shooting."
For his part, Butler also said he got too caught up in "watching the show" and deferred too much. But I'm not sure this is a problem of Butler not making enough plays. Butler's usage rate, for example, is third-highest on the team, predictably behind Arenas and Nick Young. It's a little down from last season, but it's still pretty high. The real problem is that, when Butler does shoot, it's only after he stares the defense down, gives a little juke move and finally shoots. In this offense, he should be shooting right off the catch. He has the stroke, he just needs to have the confidence to do so.
2. Give him a chance to sometimes play like a point forward
As of right now, the Wizards are mostly having Butler catch the ball in two places -- on the baseline and at the free throw line. Butler's ball-handling abilities aren't particularly amazing, as indicated by all the turnovers. However, Butler has shown in his career that he can be a decent facilitator. In 2007/08, when Antonio Daniels struggled with injuries, Butler's assist rate was all the way up to 22%. Why not give Butler a chance to set others up now, just to provide a different look?
Obviously, this would be a departure from the general philosophy of letting Gilbert Arenas make all the decisions. But already, we've seen Flip Saunders put the ball in Randy Foye's hands and allow Gilbert Arenas to come off screens. Why not do the same with Butler?
3. Give him more post-up opportunities
In 2006/07, when Arenas was playing and doing his thing, Eddie Jordan used to run Butler down into the post on occasion to punish smaller players with his strength. Butler's lost a bit of that strength over the years because he's slimmed down so much, but since he's not a great dribbler, why not post him up more in this scheme as well? He could then use the strength he still possesses to get in the lane for higher percentage shots, and I imagine he'd be pretty good at passing out of a double team.
4. Put him in more pick and rolls
As noted above, Butler isn't the smoothest pick and roll player because of his poor handle, but he's also a good passer and he has experience running these plays from the 07/08 season. I have to note now, though, that I'm not talking about your standard high pick and roll play. I don't think Butler does well there because he's not much of a threat to shoot from deep.
Instead, I'm talking about a few different kinds of pick and roll. I wish I could diagram them, but I don't have any visuals.
- The side pick and roll: From about 17-feet away from the hoop on the wing or even pushing the corner. Clear out one side of the floor, have a big man set a screen to get Butler moving towards the middle, then have the big guy roll to the hoop or pop to the baseline for the open jumper. Antawn Jamison and Andray Blatche would be good partners for this.
The "post" pick and roll, for lack of a better word: Sam Cassell used to run this one all the time. Basically, Butler would back his way down into the post, someone would come over to set a screen, and Butler would back out while the other guy would come down into the post. The objective would be to get a switch so a smaller guy is guarding the post player. You want to do this with Butler because he's more of a threat to score down there if you can't bring your big guy over.
- The pinch post pick and roll: This would involve Butler catching the ball where he often does 17 feet in at the top of the key, only this time, someone like Brendan Haywood should set a screen and try to roll to the hoop. This is a much better spot than your typical high pick and roll because Butler's such a great mid-range shooter. He becomes a threat the closer to the hoop you run pick and roll, so why not do it here?
5. Challenge Butler on the defensive end
I hate using these types of arguments because they're so subjective, but it just seemed like Butler wasn't so dialed in mentally the other day. Not only did he commit some bad turnovers, but he also left Quentin Richardson far too often on defense. However, challenging Butler to guard the top perimeter threats might force him to be more focused all over the court. Flip Saunders has already said Butler is his lockdown perimeter guy, so giving him a chance to prove it might boost his confidence.