The Thunder have signed Caron Butler, the team announced. The Raymond Brothers client spurns the Heat, who had been co-favorites with Oklahoma City. The Bulls, Spurs and Rockets were also in contention for the 12th-year veteran. The deal covers the rest of the season, and perhaps there’s a player option for 2014/15, as Glen Davis recently received from the Clippers.
“We are pleased to welcome Caron Butler to the Thunder organization and to Oklahoma City,” GM Sam Presti said. “Caron represents what we look for in a Thunder player and will positively impact our team. His toughness. hard-nosed defense, resiliency and highly regarded professionalism will only enhance our depth and bring additional versatility to the roster.”
Oklahoma City had reportedly been seeking a two-way wing player before the trade deadline, and were willing to give up their own 2014 first-round pick to acquire Iman Shumpert from the Knicks. New York turned the Thunder down, and while Butler isn’t quite the defensive presence that Shumpert is, the Thunder appear to be better off, particularly since they’ll get to keep their draft pick and they’re likely making only a minimum-salary investment. Oklahoma City had been carrying just 13 players, so the team didn’t have to make a corresponding move.
Butler, who turns 34 in March, has been enduring one of his worst shooting seasons, connecting on just 38.7% of his shots. He’s still making 36.1% of his three-point attempts, and he averaged 11.0 points in 24.1 minutes per game for Milwaukee, which is close to his native Racine, Wisconsin. Butler’s homecoming this season to the league-worst Bucks was no fairy tale, and the team made him a part of trade talks before agreeing to a buyout this week. It’s unclear how much of this season’s $8MM salary he gave up to pry his way out his contract, which was set to end this summer.
The two-time All-Star goes from the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings to the top of the West with Oklahoma City, which figures to make Butler the backup to Kevin Durant and use them together in small-ball lineups. The early end of OKC’s pursuit of Danny Granger, who wound up picking the Clippers late Thursday night, reportedly led executives around the league to believe the Thunder were confident about their ability to land Butler. Miami had seemed like a natural fit, since the Heat made Butler the 10th overall pick in the 2002 draft, and he played his first two seasons with the team, developing a close relationship with Dwyane Wade, the godfather of one of Butler’s daughters.
Eddie Scarito contributed to this post. Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images. Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports first reported the agreement, noting that it covered the rest of the season.