The Spurs have added sharpshooter Rasual Butler to the training camp roster. It's not exactly a big surprise since they have been reportedly interested in him for most of the offseason and they are looking for more wing depth. Even at 36 years of age, the former Wizard is worthy of a camp invitation.
Competition for a spot in the final roster, however, will be fierce and on the surface, Butler's chances don't look good. Jonathon Simmons clearly impressed the front office enough to earn a multi-year contract while Jimmer Fredette has secured a sizable guarantee on his one-year deal. We've also seen veterans on non-guaranteed contracts like Corey Maggette, Eddy Curry, Josh Powell and Sam Young be added only to be used as camp bodies and then released.
Yet the current roster situation and Butler's skill set suggest he might get a closer look than the average late invitee.
Butler is very similar to Marco Belinelli
Belinelli shot a solid 39.9 percent on catch and shoot jumpers last season. Butler shot 40.7 percent. A sizable percent off their offense also came off screens, suggesting they both played off the ball. Neither held the ball for long, according to SportsVU data, and neither scored efficiently after putting the ball on the floor.
They are essentially the same type of player: guys who don't try to do too much, don't need the ball in their hands and either shoot it or pass it back when they do get it. The only other wing currently in the roster that fits that description is Danny Green.
Players that have proved they can be productive without requiring a lot of touches are valuable, especially next to high usage teammates. The Spurs don't have enough of the former but plenty of the latter. In terms of talent Butler might be at a disadvantage but in terms of fit, he's a step ahead on his immediate competition.
Butler could be the Cory Joseph of wings
The Spurs will clearly be a different team this upcoming season, so they might not need to find players who can replicate exactly what they lost in free agency. Shooting, however, is always necessary and they need some to maintain proper spacing, especially now that the offense might become more post-oriented.
Only Danny Green shot over 40 percent from beyond the arc among the wings. What happens if he misses time? Kawhi Leonard shot a mediocre 37 percent on catch and shoot jumpers last season. Manu Ginobili was better, connecting on over 39 percent, but has not started in a while. Adding another mediocre shooter to the starting lineup would allow opponents to double team inside and help on penetration more often.
Having Butler as injury insurance for either Green or Leonard would make it possible to keep Ginobili on his bench role, just like Gregg Popovich did with Patty Mills. If Joseph's tenure with the Spurs is any indication, Pop values lineup balance and keeping Butler would allow him to do that even if the team suffers injuries.
On limited minutes, Butler can be an elite shooter
Butler shot 39 percent on three-pointers last season but that average is misleading. Up until December 31, he was connecting on almost 50 percent of his outside shots. As the season went on, his stroke abandoned him and he averaged 31 percent the rest of the way.
The explanation for that huge dip is simple: his legs were gone. Butler played 453 minutes in 2011/12, missed the 2012/13 season completely -- at least at the NBA level -- and then played 378 minutes in Indiana in 2013/14. In those first two months in Washington he played 613 minutes, more than he had played in an entire season since 2010. The Wizards had Bradley Beal and Martell Webster battling injuries, which is why they had to play Butler too many minutes. That's not a concern for the Spurs.
Expecting a career journeyman who has had a lot of up and downs to lead the league in three-point percentage is not realistic but as long as exhaustion is not a factor, Butler could easily shoot 40 percent from outside. That would make him a big asset for a team looking for depth.
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No one could possibly be excited by the late addition of Rasual Butler. Unlike Simmons and Jimmer Fredette, who still have some untapped potential left, we know what Butler is: a replacement-level player, at best.
Those come in different shapes and forms, though, and as a shooter with prototypical wing height, Butler could be a solid addition to the deep bench.
Of course, he will have to prove his worth. Unless his shot falls in training camp and in preseason, he will be nothing but a footnote in this offseason before being unceremoniously waived. If it does, however, he might give the front office more options when trying to determine the final roster.