One of Stan Van Gundy's first moves as the Detroit Pistons' head of basketball operations was signing an aging Caron Butler to a two-year, $9 million contract partially guaranteed for the 2015-2016 season. Fresh off a tumultuous 2013-2014 season that saw his play in three different jerseys, Butler proved he still had some gas left in the tank with the Oklahoma City Thunder, scoring 9.7 points in 23.7 minutes and knocking down the long ball at a rate of 44.1%.
This past year in Pistons blue, white and red has seen him play the fewest minutes of his career (20.7), and seen a correlating drop in most statistical categories. However, the former Connecticut Husky wasn't brought in to carry an offense, but to help instill Stan Van Gundy's culture and mentor the Pistons' young core. Butler was the Pistons' captain, he helped Brandon Jennings unlock his potential, preached SVG's ethos, transitioned from a scorer to a spot-up shooter and has had a significant impact on the team. Per David Mayo at MLive:
"I like what we've got going. It's special. I've really connected to these dudes. And your voice, it carries a lot of weight. They're my boys, they're my brothers. It's more than just basketball, because you put so much out. I've been around these guys more than I've been around my family -- and some. A lot of people say that, but it's and some, because not only have I been playing, I've been coaching, and doing a lot of other stuff. I like where we're at, I like what we've been able to accomplish, being better than we were prior, and I feel like I've got my fingerprints all over these guys. So it's a great opportunity to come back and continue the thing on."
With the offseason looming, and decisions in the making for Stan Van Gundy and the Pistons, Caron Butler's $4.5 million team option and the team's other partially-guaranteed contracts (Shawne Williams, Anthony Tolliver and Quincy Miller) will weigh heavily on their minds as SVG takes on his first full summer in Detroit's front office. Van Gundy was non-committal on Caron's option, pointing towards the draft and the team's long-term plans as things that may affect his decision.
The Pistons were noticeably weak at small forward this year, with the likes of Kyle Singler, Luigi Datome, Tayshaun Prince and Cartier Martin all logging time at the 3 alongside Butler. With Martin being the only player under contract at the position over next year (2015-16 player option), and Greg Monroe's upcoming free-agency, both forward spots will be sporting new faces come opening night, and hopefully, a few familiar ones will also be present.
Whether he will be suiting up for the Pistons next year or not, Butler has said that whatever happens, his mark will be forever left with this team, and he was proud with what he achieved in Detroit, hopefully Stan Van Gundy feels the same way and brings back the NBA veteran to the Motor City.