For Rasual Butler, just making an NBA roster in 2014-15 was a tremendous accomplishment. Left for dead after a bad stint with the Raptors several years ago, Butler grinded his way through a stint in the D-League and earned himself a spot with the Pacers in 2014-2015.
Coming into the Wizards training camp, it was anything but certain that he would be on the Wizards roster for any time, let alone the whole season. To earn his roster spot for the season, Butler had to fight off numerous challenges, not the least of which being the Wizards desire to keep an open roster spot for the possibility of a Ray Allen signing later in the season.
Butler's season didn't begin auspiciously. In the Wizards season opener in Miami, he set himself up to take a charge on a Miami fast break and saw part of his feet just inside the restricted area, and his whole body underneath James Ennis as he laid down a ferocious slam.
RIP Rasual Butler.
But Butler was far from departing us. With Bradley Beal and Martell Webster both out to start the season, there were minutes to be had on the wing and Butler took full advantage of his opportunity. Butler's first big game came in a November win over the Pistons, as he scored 18 points on 7-8 shooting. It was the first of several incredibly efficient performances to start the season.
In his first 20 games Butler managed four 20+ point games, only one short of the total Paul Pierce managed for the entire season, and shot 53.4 percent from 3 point range on 3.7 attempts per game. Butler filled the role Martell Webster had played during the prior two seasons, proving adept at getting to the right spot and making the most of catch and shoot opportunities. As hard as it would be to imagine before the season, Rasual Butler was a huge part of the Wizards getting off to their best start in decades.
That great start by Butler was not without its pitfalls. His emergence also led to a reduced amount of time available for Otto Porter. Though that can be justified by Butler's superior play early on, one could argue that Porter seeing more playing time earlier could have paid off later in the season.
As the Wizards had wanted to keep an open roster spot for the possible Ray Allen signing, they chose to clear up a different roster spot at the January 10th deadline for guaranteeing contracts. The Wizards chose to jettison their other non-guaranteed contract, Glen Rice Jr., who the Wizards had taken with a second round pick the season before. If as some have argued, the Wizards gave up their 2014 2nd round pick to have the room for someone like Butler, the Wizards also gave up their 2013 2nd round pick in order to keep him and a roster spot that later went to Will Bynum.
All that would be easier to stomach, if Butler's regression to the mean hadn't been so steep. While nobody expected Butler to shoot Korveresque levels all season, it would have been easier to deal with if others had stepped up during his struggles. But Bradley Beal and Garrett Temple got hurt at various times, Otto struggled and Martell Webster didn't look like the player he was his first two years in Washington. From January 11th onward, Butler shot just 36.1 percent from the floor and 28 percent from deep as he and the Wizards struggled to regain the form they had shown early in the season.
The overall numbers for the year were respectable enough, as Butler still managed to shoot just under 39 percent from beyond the arc. On the other hand, most of his overall efficiency numbers were down even from his last season with Indiana. Perhaps we should be surprised at the decline, as Butler played more minutes than he had in any season since he was 30.
It should also be kept in mind that the 35 year old Butler was not signed to be a rotation wing, but more of a stop gap as Webster and Beal recovered from injuries and Otto Porter got adjusted to playing at the NBA level. So whatever disappointment we feel at the end of the season, it's only because Butler raised our expectations so much. It's to his credit that he stepped up to be something more than that for the first half of the season, and unfortunate that the Wizards couldn't get someone to fill the gap in the second half of the year.
He'll be a free agent this offseason once again, and it wouldn't be surprising if the Wizards looked elsewhere. But if he has anything to say about it, this won't be the last the NBA sees of Rasual Butler.