Report cards: Butler

Here is the 11th player capsule in our ongoing look back at the 2011-2012 season for the Los Angeles Clippers and forward at the 2012-2013 season. The series runs until next week, examining every player who finished the season on the roster as well as the head coach.

We started with Trey Thompkins and Travis Leslie, quickly moved on to Ryan Gomes and Bobby Simmons and continued with Chauncey Billups, Kenyon Martin, Reggie Evans, Eric Bledsoe, Nick Young and Mo Williams. Now, we do Caron Butler.

2011-2012 contributions: Butler lived up to his “tough juice” nickname in the postseason as he played through a fractured left hand that was supposed to sideline him for four to six weeks. He only missed one playoff game and was an integral part of the Clippers beating the Memphis Grizzlies in the first round. Butler finished with 14 points in Game 4 against Memphis after missing Game 2 because of the broken hand he suffered in Game 1. Butler finished the season averaging 12.0 points, 3.7 rebounds and 1.2 assists but perhaps nobody on the team suffered more after Chauncey Billups was lost for the season in February because of a torn Achilles than Butler. With Billups gone and Randy Foye starting in his place, Butler no longer got the same open looks on the weakside he did when Billups was penetrating the gaps and causing defenses to respect him. That’s simply something Foye could not provide. Butler’s productivity and efficiency dipped considerably without Billups but could once again pick up with a more consistent shooting guard in the starting lineup.

2012-2013 prediction: Butler signed a three-year, $24 million contract with the Clippers last year so he will likely be the starting small forward again next season although Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro and Clippers general manager Neil Olshey both agreed that is a position they need to shore up as well. If Billups returns or Ray Allen is signed in the off-season, chances are Butler will have a far more productive season next year, mirroring the first half of last season before Billups was lost. Butler’s game depending so much on those open looks on the weakside that simply weren’t there with Foye on the floor. Butler’s contributions to the team, however, extend beyond the stat sheet. His toughness in playing through a fractured hand no doubt were on the minds of Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and other players on the team, playing through injuries in the postseason.

Grade: B-