Caron Butler will be officially introduced as the newest member of the Milwaukee Bucks today. There will be a ceremony at his old high school and everyone will have kind things to say. I don’t really have strong feelings either way, but mostly I’m just glad he’s being introduced on September 5 instead of July 14 or something like that. It’s not the specific dates I care about so much as the team he’s joining that I care about. Butler joining the mid-July Milwaukee Bucks seems like it would have been cause for quite the controversy around these parts and I’d probably be looking back on what I wrote then and feel foolish because of how things developed.
So, thanks Bucks.
Assumptions about his role and Milwaukee’s motives would have run wild. “WIN NOW” would have been the phrase of the day. If he joined a Bucks team without Zaza Pachuila, Luke Ridnour and Carlos Delfino, I suppose it would have been fair to assume the Bucks were putting too much stock into an aging, less effective than he used to be Butler.
But now it makes quite a bit more sense.
He’s significantly overpaid at this stage in his career, but he’s in the last year of his deal and he’s just taking up what would have been empty cap space on the Bucks roster. The opportunity cost in Butler is the loss of cap space that could have helped facilitate a trade later in the season. Maybe adding Butler prevents the Bucks from being a cog in a trade other teams are looking to make in February. Often, being a cog in other team’s trades results in the acquisition of a draft pick of some sort, so maybe the Bucks are costing themselves a late first round or second round pick in February by acquiring Butler in August.
But nothing is guaranteed and those trades seem to get more and more difficult to facilitate every season. Butler presents the Bucks with something real right now, even if he robs them of what could happen later. And we know the Bucks love what’s real right now. While his value as a player has diminished, his value as a person seems to be important to the Bucks.
Milwaukee went through what could have been considered a moderately successful season last year in terms of results, but the Bucks seemed to have the worst time getting through it. All reports out of the organization since the end of the season indicate that the Bucks locker room was an unhappy place. The veterans on the roster hardly seemed the nurturing, wise types that could take players under their wing and show them the ropes. If Drew Gooden is the backbone of your team’s veteran presence, your team lacks for leaders.
So 11 new players have come into Milwaukee. Some have been young, some have been old. Some will be counted on this season, some in a few seasons. Butler is a guy who will be counted on a bit this season on the court. But in the grander scheme of things, he’s going to be counted on to set a great example for guys like Giannis Antetokounmpo and Brandon Knight the way the Pachulia is going to be expected to help provide guidance for Larry Sanders and John Henson.
And it doesn’t hurt that Butler can come back to his home state and have his introductory press conference outside of Milwaukee. The Bucks have struggled for years to attract much interest outside of Milwaukee county, but maybe Butler can help sell the team in Racine. A team would never pick up a player and plug him into a rotation simply because he was a local, but when you factor it in with a few other things (plays a position of need, can still play a little, would be a good locker room guy, fits under the cap), it doesn’t hurt.
Ultimately, the Bucks didn’t get guys like Butler and Pachulia to be babysitters. They are probably going to count on the two of them to be contributing rotation players for a good portion of the season. The last couple “Obvious Locker Room Guy Who Will End Up Also Playing Rotation Minutes” the Bucks have had were Kurt Thomas and Marquis Daniels. Thomas got to keep his minutes in the 10 mpg range for most of the season, which worked out pretty well. Everyone seemed to respect him and he seemed to have been a positive influence on younger players the Bucks had that season. Daniels was relied upon way too much, played poorly for most of the season and couldn’t save a locker room gone very far south. One man can’t do it alone.
That’s why the Bucks didn’t just pick up Butler alone this offseason. He’s being counted on for both minutes and guidance, just like Pachuila … and Ridnour … and Delfino. The Bucks want all these guys to play right now and seem to think they can combine with some talented young players to make a run at a late playoff spot, but possibly just as importantly, they want them to fix a wounded locker room atmosphere and show guys like Giannis, Knight and Sanders the way. Individually, their acquisitions seem strange, but as a group, they make more sense. They want these guys to set good examples in practice and care about both ends of the court.
So while Caron Butler doesn’t really make the Bucks that much better or worse, he does bring something to the organization. He won’t really make Milwaukee much better or worse on the court this season and he doesn’t fit into either the “Win-Now” or “Tank” agendas, but if he can help set up a guy like Giannis for success in two years, he’ll be well worth the steep price of … Slava Kravtsov and Ish Smith.