Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
March 1st. If a player is on an NBA team’s roster on this day, then they are only eligible to play for that team in the NBA playoffs.
If a player wants to feature in the playoffs for a different team than the one they have been playing for all season, it doesn’t matter when the player signs with his new team, only that they are not contracted to any NBA team on this date.
That’s why we see so much cutting and resigning of players—usually veterans—at this time of the year.
It is in the team’s best interest to get rid of certain players because that team can often save money from the contract by cutting the player loose early; and this is in the player’s best interest because they get the chance to go ring hunting with a contender.
Tracy McGrady last year was playing for the Quingdao Eagles in China, but once their season ended he latched on with our San Antonio Spurs for the playoffs.
With no true back-up small forward on the roster behind Kawhi Leonard, the Spurs will be looking at both Granger and Butler, but they wont be able to sign both without cutting someone else.
Let’s take a look at who would be the best fit.
All stats courtesy of NBA.com/stats
Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports
Throughout his career, Granger has been more of a scoring threat than Butler, and as recently as 2011-12 averaged over 18 points per game.
A lot of his damage came from outside the arc: He has shot 38% or better from deep in five of his last six full seasons.
In the past few seasons, Granger has fallen from the No. 1 offensive option for Indiana to number three or four. This would allow him to fit in nicely with the Spurs, where Tony Parker, Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili would all be ahead of him in terms of offensive weapons.
Granger—and his numbers—would benefit greatly from San Antonio’s superior floor spacing and offensive flow (107.3 vs. 102.4 points/100 possessions).
He also is a somewhat similar player to Leonard, the player he would most likely be subbing for.
With offensive rebound rates that differ by less than one percentage point, and both being better three-point shooters from the corners than anywhere else, it would be a relatively smooth transition between the players, meaning more continuity in plays and schemes the team would run on offense.
Granger would also be coming from the number one ranked defense in the league.
While Roy Hibbert and Paul George are known as the lockdown defenders for the Pacers, a team doesn’t hold its opponents to the low 90s in points per 100 possessions unless everyone buys in on D. This all means that Granger would not be a liability on defense by any means, and could, in fact, be a positive contribution on that end.
The downside to Granger is his recent injury problems.
He has never looked back at full strength since his injury plagued campaign of 2011-12. His shooting has fallen off a cliff this year (36%), and he hasn’t been above 43% shooting since 2008-09.
He’s also not much of a stretch four, as he is not strong enough to hold himself in the post against the behemoths in the Western Conference (Zach Randolph, Blake Griffin, Kevin Love etc.) This would allow for limited positional flexibility, which proved to be hugely helpful to the Spurs in last year’s playoffs.
He’s also not the best defensive rebounder for his position; he grabs only 13.2% of available boards.
Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports
The man known as Tough Juice would bring one very obvious skill to the Spurs: toughness.
His aggressiveness and character would make his signing a very similar transaction to the Stephen Jackson pick-up of two years ago.
Not only would Butler be yet another veteran voice in the locker room, but he would also likely be more effective on the court than Captain Jack, while also being less of a liability off the court. Butler is known as a hard-nosed defender, who won’t back down from a challenge.
If the Spurs are going to win a title this year, they are going to have to beat at least one of LeBron James, Paul George or Kevin Durant.
While Kawhi Leonard will be the primary defender for these three superstars, he will need some time to rest.
This is where Butler comes in.
He has experience defending Durant from his time with the Los Angeles Clippers, and has met up with James in the past during the playoffs. Despite his age, Butler can still rebound extremely well for a player of his position. This season he has been grabbing 20 percent of all available defensive rebounds—a higher proportion than reigning defensive player of the year, Marc Gasol.
On the other end, Butler can still knock down a three, having shot a league average 36 percent from downtown this season. While his FG% has dropped this season, that can probably be attributed to being asked to do too much creating for himself as one of the main options for the miserable Bucks, which also explains his unfortunate turnover ratio.
Like with Granger, playing in the Spurs system as a fourth or fifth option will benefit Butler’s efficiency numbers greatly.
Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
While both players have their strengths (scoring for Granger, defence for Butler), Butler is the better fit for this team.
With so much shooting in the backcourt, and no problem scoring the ball this season, all the Spurs really need from their Bought-Out-Veteran is character and defense.
Granger is a little bit too shot-happy to fit, and may not be entirely focussed on winning, as he is still trying to get a contract for next season.
Butler on the other hand has had his go at being “the man” (or one of “the men”), and will be solely thinking about winning his first ring.