The Los Angeles Clippers and Oklahoma City Thunder are going to fortify their championship runs with former All-Stars and talented swingmen, but don’t let anyone tell you that the addition of Danny Granger (El Lay) and Caron Butler (OKC) are going to put anyone over the top. Adding Evan Turner to the Indiana Pacers – tossing an emerging young player onto the roster of a team that owned the league’s best record for much of the year – isn’t putting anyone over the top. The top is that hellacious, and May and June is going to be super sweet, you guys.
There’s a reason that Butler and Granger were waived by their former teams, and you can’t just chalk it up to the Bucks (Butler) and 76ers (Granger) wanting to lose every potential game between now and when the NBA’s draft lottery hits in May. If the Bucks and Sixers could lose games in May, somehow, they would; but the real reason these guys were dumped is because their games are in steep decline, deep into 2013-14.
Butler, strangely, was brought back to his native Wisconsin in a trade as Bucks general managers strangely chased down another hoped-for .500 season. The Bucks, with Hammond’s acquisitions dotting the roster, have been terrible – winning 11 games thus far while working on pace to win 16 on the season, and finish with the league’s worst record. Butler hasn’t been outright terrible himself – his per-minute point and rebound numbers (around 16 and six per 36 minutes) are actually right on line with his career marks, which might be more of a damning statement about how some have overrated this guy through the years.
Caron was a good enough scorer in his prime, twice averaging over 20 minutes a game, but he was never a high efficiency guy, and he often approached 40 minutes a night for his Washington teams. That’s to be admired, it’s good to get competent production for those sorts of minutes, but to hear the cable TV types talk it some years back you would have guessed that Butler was a Hall of Famer in the making, rather than just a pretty good player.
The good news is, at age 34 in two weeks, he’s not that far off. The problem here is that he still works the same sort of game:
The high three-point marks on the left side are encouraging, as Oklahoma City does run a lot of action for both small and big forwards on that end, but he is far from the sort of floor-spreading marksman the Thunder need at that point. That’s also presuming the Thunder – with the fourth-best offense, sixth-best defense and best record in the West – truly need anything at this point. Save for some time, in the face of the hacks that think that adding a high usage point guard like Russell Westbrook some 54 games in is going to happen without wrinkle nor reflex.
The Clippers aren’t quite in the Thunder’s realm at this point, Doc Rivers’ club is four games behind OKC as they attempt to un-learn what they weren’t taught (huh?) through the Vinny Del Negro era. Outside of hiring a really good guy, the team genuinely should have no idea what they’re getting in Granger, a player that really hasn’t been healthy in 21 months, and one that looked fitful in his time with the Pacers this year.
The good news is that the Pacer bench corps played better with Granger on the floor this year, even if his personal numbers weren’t all that great. Danny averaged 8.3 points and 3.6 rebounds in 22.5 minutes a game this season, shooting just under 36 percent from the field along the way. He’s made a third of his three-pointers so far in 2013-14, hardly the mark of a floor stretcher, and his mobility and explosiveness appear to be a hallmark of a different era.
One should blame injuries for that, but Granger and the Clippers are hoping that Indiana’s often scrunched offense should also take a little heat for that. Granger wasn’t exactly asked to work as a creator with Indiana’s bench unit, but the uptick from C.J. Watson to Chris Paul could be a huge one. Of course – that’s presuming Granger plays with the Clipper starters at all. It would be fantastic if the former All-Star could find a place in Los Angeles’ crunch time units, but until Doc Rivers figures out what he has in Granger, the newest Clipper will be passing the time with former Pacer teammate and current Clipper reserve Darren Collison running things.
These are spot minute swingmen who will come prepared and professional, but also sporting low-efficiency games and not much (in these early stages, at least) that would tell you that they’re ready to supplant various Clippers or Thunder. Even if Matt Barnes (Los Angeles) and Thabo Sefolosha (Oklahoma City) have been lacking at times this season. We’re not criticizing the pickups – not counting Jimmer Fredette’s 49 percent three-point shooting – these were the best grabs these teams could make.
Just don’t back your way into hyperbole just because Caron Butler and Danny Granger once made All-Star teams.
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