“We are pleased to welcome Caron Butler to the Thunder organization and to Oklahoma City,” Thunder GM Sam Presti said in a statement. “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.”
The Thunder mark Butler's fourth team in the last year. After spending the 2011-12 and 2012-13 seasons with the Clippers, he was traded to the Suns in a three-team deal that sent J.J. Redick and Jared Dudley to Los Angeles. Butler's stay in the desert was a short one, with the Suns moving him to the Bucks in an August salary dump. Although he never took the court in Phoenix, Butler did hit the runway for the club, as he participated in a fashion show unveiling the team's new jersey designs.
The move to Milwaukee was a homecoming for the Wisconsin native, and the Bucks were surely hoping that Butler, who was on the books for $8 million this season, would be a stabilizing presence on the wing as the organization eyed its annual run toward mediocrity. Instead, Milwaukee (11-46) has endured a nightmare season that has produced the league's worst record, and Butler has missed time with knee and ankle injuries.
Butler, 33, averaged 11 points, 4.6 rebounds and 1.6 assists in 24.1 minutes over 34 games for the Bucks, while shooting a career-low 38.7 percent. With no hope in sight for this season, Milwaukee coach Larry Drew has looked to the future by turning over big minutes to the 22-year-old Khris Middleton and the 19-year-old Giannis Antetokounmpo. Butler made it clear to the Journal Times in January that he still very much wanted to play, and that amounted to writing on the wall for an abrupt end to his homecoming tour.
"It’s been a dream come true to wear the Milwaukee uniform which so many of my idols growing up wore,” Butler said in a statement this week. "The entire organization has treated me and my family in a first-class manner that we will never forget. I would be remiss if I didn’t also thank the great fans of Milwaukee, Racine and the entire state of Wisconsin for always standing with us during a challenging season."
In Oklahoma City, Butler will likely occupy a minor role behind MVP candidate Kevin Durant. The 6-foot-7 forward, known as "Tuff Juice" for his no-nonsense and physical approach, will complement a wing corps that includes Thabo Sefolosha, Jeremy Lamb and Derek Fisher. Butler gives coach Scott Brooks a preferable matchup option to Fisher when a bigger, longer player is needed.
“I like his game," Durant told The Oklahoman. "I think he can do a lot of things. He can shoot the ball from 3. He’s a natural scorer, and I think he’s a tough, physical guy. So I’ve liked his game over the years, for sure." Adding Butler helps the Thunder keep up with the Joneses in the Western Conference, as the Clippers (Glen Davis and Danny Granger), Warriors (Steve Blake), Rockets (Jordan Hamilton) and Spurs (Austin Daye) all made moves during the trade and buyout seasons.