Archive for the ‘Rasual Butler’ Category

Blake Kennedy is a basketball coach and official with an appreciation for the burgeoning field of NBA statistical analysis. He has used those tools to inform fans as well as to consult other high school coaches in establishing statistical methods for their own programs. You can read more of his work at The Hoops Institute blog and he’s on Twitter @BorisDK1.

Note: This post was meant to go up on Wednesday, so the numbers will have changed slightly after Wednesday’s night’s game.

I can honestly say I didn’t see this coming.

Any favourable odds you want to imagine would not have been enough to persuade me, prior to this season, to put money on the notion that the Raptors would be the 28th ranked team in points / 100 possessions in the NBA after 13 games. There’s no way I would have taken that bet.

Yet, that’s exactly where they are. Not only are they generally inefficient offensively, but in every single one of the Four Factors they are just not getting the job done. They currently sit ranked 23rd in effective field goal percentage, 26th in turnover percentage, 24th in offensive rebounding percentage and 22nd in free throws / field goal attempts. In other words, they don’t do a single thing well.

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If I wanted to write this post in five words or less, I’d simply answer my own question in the title with: Really, really, really bad.

I don’t like to dump on guys when they’re in a minor slump that’s lasted just a few games, but what Rasual Butler is going through right now can’t just be classified as a simple slump. His performance has become a punch-line.

The worst part is that we should have seen it coming.

When the Raptors signed Butler to a one-year deal, most of us saw it as another veteran signing to help mentor the young guys and provide spot minutes when need be.

Even though not much was expected of Butler from a minutes standpoint, a lot of Raptors fans still pointed that out that he was the type of player who could light it up from three-point range now and then and could play some solid defence.

So while many were thrown off, few were angry when Dwane Casey surprised us by starting Butler on opening night.

From a defensive perspective, Butler hasn’t been all that bad. In fact, he’s probably been about average, if not better. The problem is, when you are as bad offensively as Butler has been through 11 games, you should be a noticeable defensive presence to stay on the floor, similar to the type of player James Johnson is.

In his short tenure as a Raptor, Butler’s best shooting performance was a three-of-seven display in a loss against the Nets. He’s gone “0-for” three times and has made only one shot six times so far. That’s right, Rasual Butler has either missed every shot he’s taken or has made only one in nine out of 11 games this season. And that’s coming from a guy who has started every game and is averaging close to 20 minutes.

In total, Butler is shooting an embarrassing 23 per cent (14-of-61) from the floor and is a laughable nine-of-41 (21.9 per cent) from three-point range.

So naturally, most people are pointing out that Butler, a normally decent shooter, is just having an off-year. But that’s not the case. The fact is that Rasual Butler has rarely ever been a good shooter.

Butler, 32, is currently in his 10th NBA season, and yet he’s only cracked 40 per cent from the field four times and hasn’t shot better than 43.3 per cent since the 2003-2004 season. He’s a career 39.9 per cent shooter who hits just under 36 per cent of his three-point attempts.

In short, he’s a very inefficient offensive player who misses way too many shots to make his average three-point stroke or average defence worth trotting out on the floor.

Rasual Butler seems like a good guy, seems to like Toronto and seems to have some overall good qualities, which would explain why Dwane Casey reportedly loves having him here and how he’s stuck around the NBA for a decade. I’m sure that given the chance, he can fill the role that most Raptors fans assumed would be placed on him, and that’s the simple one of mentoring the Raptors’ young and inexperienced talent.

But with Linas Kleiza getting back on the floor, James Johnson continuing to provide a defensive spark off of the bench and Gary Forbes yet to be given a real chance to show his worth, the only good reason to keep starting Rasual Butler and giving him 20 minutes per game is to increase the team’s chances of landing the No. 1 pick in this year’s draft, as Scott has recently pointed out.


In unrelated Raptors small forward news, here’s Sonny Weems getting the game-winning dunk for Zalgiris Kaunas against BC Khimki and sending the commentators into a state of euphoria:

Sonny’s actually having a pretty good season in Lithuania, but let’s remember that he had become Jamario Moon II in Toronto. Translation: He was a guy who earned minutes by working his tail off and playing defence, then forget what got him here and became an unfocused chucker.


Lastly, Andrea Bargnani’s status will reportedly be made clear some time on Friday, so I’m sure we’ll be talking then.

Game No. 10: Wizards 93, Raptors 78

Realistic Raptors fans knew there would be games like this. Naturally, the ugliest game of the Raptors’ season so far took place when I had to fill in for Joseph Casciaro to write the recap. Let’s just get through this and then never speak of this atrocity again.

This game was pretty much what I expected: two bad basketball teams playing sloppy basketball. I’m not shocked that the Raptors lost to the only remaining winless team since I predicted it in the game thread. The Raptors are going to have more downs than ups this season, and we just need to look for pearls of encouragement and entertainment to sustain us through another losing season.

1. I think the refs were so disgusted by the quality of this game that they could barely be bothered to  blow the whistle at either end unless somebody drew blood. I think they just wanted to end this ugly display as quickly as possible and I can’t say I blame them.

2. DeMar DeRozan is struggling badly on offense right now, although he did save some face with a decent second-half performance. We’re really going to get a sense of his mental makeup based on how he works through this. To his credit, he’s still working hard on defense and diving for loose balls.

3. Rasual Butler continuing to start for the Raptors is an unfunny joke. It’s getting to the point where I wouldn’t blame David Stern if he fined the Raptors for blatant tanking. No team that is legitimately trying to win games can justify starting Butler and playing him 20 minutes per game.

4. Jan Vesely is fun to watch since he’s not on a team I’m rooting for. I feel like he’ll be good for some enjoyable highlights and little else his rookie season.

5. Jack Armstong’s distaste for Andray Blatche was my favorite part of watching this game on TV. Jack has every right to be disgusted by Blatche. He’s a horrible combination of wasted talent, selfishness and stupidity. You know how you can get frozen concentrated orange juice in a can? Well, Andray Blatche is like Drew Gooden, concentrated. I look forward to Blatche playing for seven or eight different teams and making about $50 million in his NBA career before he runs out of GMs dumb enough to employ him.

6. Serious question: You can have your choice between John Wall and Ricky Rubio. Who would you take? I can’t give a definitive answer to this question right now, and I would never have imagined this would be a dilemma EVER, much less this early in Rubio’s NBA career. For all the upside Wall has, his decision-making seems to have declined from his rookie season.

Raptors Player of the Game: Andrea Bargnani — 29 MP, 22 Pts, 9-16 FG, 4-4 FT, 2 Reb, 2 Ast

Wizards Player of the Game: Rashard Lewis — 27 MP, 15 Pts, 6-10 FG, 1-1 3Pt, 2-3 FT, 1 Reb, 2 Ast, 2 Stl

Game No. 5: Raptors 90, Knicks 85

After a couple of late collapses in Dallas and Orlando, the Raptors went into The Garden and stole a W from the “powerhouse” Knicks (more on them later). Yes, the Knicks were missing Amare Stoudemire, but they’re also a legitimate playoff team in the East and probably one of the top 10 teams in the NBA, so beating them in New York is still impressive.

Not to mention, a lot of people would make the argument that Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler are both better basketball players than anyone on the Raptors roster right now.

All in all, it was a solid, hard fought road victory for the young Raptors, and perhaps a disheartening loss for “Tank Nation.”

Now let’s get to my personal thoughts on the game.

1- Andrea Bargnani and DeMar DeRozan showed once again that they are capable of becoming a decent scoring combination. Not great, but capable to say the least. The pair combined for 42 points (21 each) on 14-of-26 shooting and 12-of-14 from the free throw line. Both got off to hot starts in the first quarter, cooled off towards the middle of the game, then made some big shots down the stretch. For Bargnani, it caps a great road trip from an offensive standpoint, as he totaled 79 points over three games on 28-of-52 (53.8 per cent) shooting and 20-of-23 from the charity stripe.

I still want to see more rebounds from Andrea and want to see this defensive effort over a longer period of time, but after five games, it’s not a stretch to say that Bargnani is playing at an All Star level. He’s been that good.

2- Rasual Butler. Given the fact that I’m looking at this season as a building and growing year for the young core currently in place, I’ll rarely write much about some of the veterans on the team, but tonight, I’ll give Rasual Butler some love. After looking a little out of place on this team through the first four games and not being able to hit the broad side of a barn, Butler came through with by far his best performance in Raptors red on Monday night. He finished with a double-double of 13 points and 10 rebounds and looked to be playing his butt off on the defensive end against Carmelo Anthony. As for his shot, Rasual finally got it going, and made a couple of big time shots to stop Knicks runs before they got out of control.

3- Amir’s silly fouls. I don’t know how many more times we’re going to have to talk about it, but man, does Amir Johnson make some silly decisions on the court. I’m a big Amir fan and still think there is a lot of untapped potential in that 6-9 body of his, but he has to eventually learn to be more focused and more disciplined out there. Some of his fouls just come as a result of playing balls to the wall every minute that he’s on the floor, but some are the result of very questionable decision making. On one occasion tonight, the Raptors got a stop, were running a fast break, and never got a chance to finish it because Amir threw an arm out at his man running up the floor about 20 feet behind the play. On another occasion, the Knicks had just missed a shot, Amir went up for a 50-50 ball with Tyson Chandler, and blatantly yanked at Chandler’s jersey in clear sight of the refs. There are two fouls Amir could have saved himself from with better judgment.

4- Ed Davis’ minutes. Last week, in my “Early Numbers to Consider” post, I mentioned that I was a little surprised that Ed Davis had only averaged 19 minutes per game after two contests. After all, I was and still am expecting Davis to take a step forward this season. Since writing that, Davis has gone on to play just 46 minutes in the last three games. In total, he’s played only 84 minutes in five games for an average of 16.8 per game. When he is out there, he seems tentative on offence, and also looks to be a little more foul-prone on defence than I remember last season. I’m not sure if it’s the adjustment to the added pounds of muscle, the adjustment to a new coach, or just an old-fashioned “sophomore slump,” but whatever it is, something doesn’t seem right with Ed Davis. It will be interesting to watch how the big man responds to the first real slump of his young career.

5- A note on the Knicks now. With a defensive presence in the middle in Tyson Chandler and some familiarity between Amare and Carmelo, I think they are a much improved team from last season. To me, they should beat out the aging Celtics for the Atlantic Division crown and even win a playoff series this year. But beyond that, you’re expecting too much from this team. They’re very good, but they’re not great, and certainly not good enough to compete for a championship, as some believe they can. Quite simply, jump-shooting teams that don’t play consistent defence don’t win NBA championships, and with Anthony and Stoudemire both in the team’s long-term plans, that’s probably going to be their identity for the next few years. The Knicks are relevant again, will probably make a couple of playoff runs, but ultimately, won’t get a ring as presently constructed.

6- I was impressed with this Raptors team after their win in Cleveland and effort against the Pacers in the home opener, but I’m more impressed with them after this three-game road trip. The young Raps went toe-to-toe with three very good, very experienced teams with aspirations much higher than theirs, and for the most part, stood their ground. Sure, there was the over-celebration after clawing back but achieving nothing in Dallas, then the blown 16-point lead in Orlando, but overall, Toronto competed admirably against the Mavs, Magic and Knicks. Other than one stretch of the second quarter in Dallas or the finish to that game, the Raptors were either leading or within striking distance for the duration of every game on this trip.

When it’s all said and done, the Raps emerge from the tough trip with a 1-2 record and a 2-3 record overall. At this point, based on their play and record, they’re already exceeding my expectations.

Raptors Player of the Game: Andrea Bargnani – 38 Min, 21 Pts, 7-13 FG, 0-2 3PT, 7-8 FT, 5 Reb, 1 Ast, 3 TO (You can take your pick of Bargnani, DeRozan or Calderon for Raptors Player of the Game)

Knicks Player of the Game: Carmelo Anthony – 42 Min, 35 Pts, 13-31 FG, 4-9 3PT, 5-8 FT, 11 Reb, 4 Ast, 1 Stl, 3 TO (I didn’t think ‘Melo was as good offensively as his 35 points suggest, but I’ll give him credit for hauling in 11 boards to go with his scoring)

With a condensed training camp and pre-season in the books, it’s time to take one final look at what the Raptors’ rotation looks like, or at least what I believe it to look like, before the regular season gets started on Monday night in Cleveland.

I’m basing this on both the little I saw from players in the pre-season and on Dwane Casey’s comments about certain players throughout training camp.

Let’s get to it.

Point Guard: Jose Calderon will likely start on opening night, and if he plays the way he’s capable of and shows Dwane Casey he can out-defend a pylon, he may even keep the starting job for the entire season. But Jerryd Bayless is nearly seven full years younger than Calderon, is quicker and a much better defender than Calderon, and obviously has a lot more potential than a 30-year-old. Quite frankly, the only one who can get in the way of Bayless earning the starting job this season is Jerryd Bayless, himself. His penchant for sloppy play and turnovers can hurt his minutes and his team, but if he can find away to take care of the ball, the tenacious Bayless should surpass the injury-prone Calderon on the Raptors’ depth chart in a very physically demanding season. I don’t expect Anthony Carter to make much of an impact in games, but I can definitely see Casey going to Carter if Jose and Jerryd falter. As Casey himself noted, Anthony Carter always starts as a team’s third point guard before slowly but surely climbing the charts.

Shooting Guard: DeMar DeRozan will start. That’s not even a question. The only question is who gets the majority of minutes at two-guard off of the bench. Leandro Barbosa possesses explosive speed and the ability to score in bunches, but you could also argue that his playing style clashes with Dwane Casey’s coaching style more than any other player on this roster. Barbosa should be given the benefit of the doubt to start the season, but if he gets into a habit of carelessly chucking shots and refusing to play D, wing players like Gary Forbes and even Rasual Butler can take his minutes.

Small Forward: James Johnson is by far the best defensive perimeter player on this roster, and his acceptance of his role in the offence is a nice compliment to that above average defence. Johnson will start, and I predict for the time being, Gary Forbes will be the first guy to replace James off of the bench. Rasual Butler will get a look here too, and you would have to imagine that Linas Kleiza will be given every opportunity to prove he belongs once he is ready to return to action. But overall, if I had to put money on it, I’d bet that Johnson and Forbes get the majority of minutes at the three.

Power Forward: We know Andrea Bargnani will start, so there’s no use crying over spilled milk. But we also know that Dwane Casey won’t worry about Bargnani’s feelings getting in the way of the facts. If Andrea doesn’t show a consistent competitive spirit on the defensive end and doesn’t up his rebounding numbers, and if Ed Davis has the kind of break through I think he is capable of this season, then we may very well see Davis starting at the four at some point this season, with Bargnani possibly being used as a scorer off of the bench (a role some believe the seven-footer is better suited to anyway). I assume that between the two of them, Bargnani and Davis will get nearly all of the minutes at power forward, with Amir Johnson splitting time between the four and five.

Centre: My gut tells me that Jamaal Magloire will get the first couple of starts. My head tells me Casey might go with Aaron Gray for a short period after that. But my heart tells me that Amir Johnson should and will be the starting centre at some point this year. If Casey absolutely wants a true centre to start all season long, then we may see Solomon Alabi get a start before Amir does, but the coach did mention in a recent scrum that Amir Johnson can play centre. If Casey continues to believe that, and Amir plays well enough to warrant it, don’t you like this team better with Amir Johnson starting ahead of Magloire, Gray and Alabi? Though I guess in the grand scheme of things, as along as Johnson is getting more minutes than those three, which he will, then it doesn’t matter whether he’s starting or coming off of the bench.

That’s how I see the Raptors rotation shaping up this season, barring any major injuries or transactions. As I’ve said in a number of recent posts, if this team performs as poorly as most of us believe they will from a wins and losses standpoint, then watching how players like Bayless, Davis and Amir fight for a bigger piece of the pie that is the Raptors’ future might be more exciting than the actual outcomes of the games. It will be really nice to see a team whose minutes are properly distributed according to work ethic and defence for a change, something we haven’t seen on a consistent basis in about five years.