Rasual Butler's three-point prowess lighting up Washington
By JAKE FISCHER
College Contributor Network
A 34-year-old Rasual Butler found himself out of the NBA. Once upon a time, he played 82 games for the Los Angeles Clippers in 2009-10. Now, he was playing alongside several teammates nearly half his age at the Orlando Pro Summer League in July 2013. After spending the entire 2012-13 season in the D-League with the Tulsa 66ers, Butler was scratching and clawing for any minute he could get on the Indiana Pacers' summer squad.
"This is just basketball, man," Butler said following one Amway Center clash with Boston Celtics. "The game is a game and it follows you everywhere you go. You just gotta play your game and do what you do."
Butler went on to make the Pacers' roster. He appeared in 50 regular season games and saw action in 11 postseason contests in 2013-14. He managed to accomplish the improbably difficult resurrection of a post-prime career.
While the D-League has come a long way in serving as a stepping stone into the NBA for young guys, it's proven to be pretty much a death sentence to aged veterans. Just ask Josh Howard, Ricky Davis and Damon Jones.
Yet here's Butler, leveraging his successful season in Indiana into a one-year, $1.45 million deal with the Washington Wizards, and now leading D.C. in three-point shooting following Trevor Ariza's departure to Houston.
The 11-year pro is converting a ridiculous 50.0 percent from downtown through Washington's first 29 games. Butler has always been an above-average three-point shooter, boasting a career-mark at 36.5 percent. Still, a jump up to his current success rate from beyond the arc has been a little unfathomable.
How has Butler been able to shoot so prolifically and post his best per 36-minute numbers of his career while being so, frankly, old?
One short answer: John Wall.
Grantland's Kirk Goldsberry published a neat piece in April 2014 on the NBA's leaders in creating three-point opportunities for teammates. Wall topped out the list of the five leading corner-three assist-ers in the league with 109. He was followed by LeBron James (89), Goran Dragic (66), Kyle Lowry (61) and Chris Paul (59).
Goldsberry also found that 84 of Wall's corner-three assists went to either Ariza or Bradley Beal.
This season, 39 of Butler's 90 three-point attempts have come in the corners, per NBA.com. He's drilled 20 of them, a cool 51.3 percent. 11 of those 20 corner makes have been assisted by Wall.
As of that Goldsberry study, Ariza led the NBA in 2013-14 corner-three makes with 78. Butler, 35, is on pace to hit 56 corner three's this season while being seven years older and earning about $6 million less than Ariza a year ago.
It's not just in the corners, however. Butler has been nearly automatic from above-the-break three's as well, knocking down 25 of 51 attempts (49.0 percent) thus far.
Butler could simply be a case study of Wall's progression into superstardom. The former dougy-ing, knucklehead Kentucky Wildcat has developed into such an elite point guard, he can turn even a once-washed-up role player into the NBA's second-leading three-point shooter.
Any way you spin it though, Butler's snipe shooting from three-point land this season has been a revelation. It's helped power Washington's second unit and aided the Wizard's transformation into a bonafide Eastern Conference contender.
Jake Fischer is a junior at Northeastern University. He covers the NBA for SLAM Magazine and SB Nation, writes for the Boston Globe and lives and dies with the Philadelphia 76ers. Follow him on Twitter: @JakeLFischer