Caron Butler, SF
The gist: During his prime, “Tuff Juice,” as he was affectionately named by former Wizards coach Eddie Jordan for his aggressive playing style, was one of the premier wing players in the league. Defensive intensity and a lethal midrange game came to define his identity through stops with the Heat, Lakers, Wizards and then Mavericks for the past two seasons. He will turn 32 during the upcoming season, and after playing in only 29 games last year, the question with Butler is: what type of player is he, coming off of a major knee injury, and how much money will he command?
The case for: In the two weeks that preceded his injury last year, Butler averaged just under 20 points per game and was in the process of establishing himself as the second scoring option on what turned out to be a championship team. He has consistently ranked among the best small forwards in recent years, shooting about 45% from 16-23 feet, and Synergy calls him “very good” in spot up situations. In a prospective “third scorer” role with the Clippers, this skill set would make a lot of sense. For what it’s worth — and to the Clippers this would be worth something — he has also become known as an very positive clubhouse presence. The Mavs even dedicated their 2011 championship run to him. While his age may become a negative factor, he also may be willing to take a shorter-term deal.
The case against: Aside from determining if he is back to health after rupturing the patellar tendon in his right knee on New Years day almost a year ago, the Clippers will have to decide if his cost will be palatable to them during what is sure to be an abbreviated free agency period that will almost certainly include a significant contract for DeAndre Jordan. Butler made about $10.5 million last year and is entering his decline phase, both risk factors the Clippers would have to weigh.