News came out on Tuesday that the Los Angeles Clippers will be without their starting small forward, Caron Butler, for at least a week. During the Clippers’ rout of the Detroit Pistons on Sunday, Butler suffered an elbow strain that will take approximately a week to fully heal so that he doesn’t risk further injury.
Butler has had a solid season for the Clippers. He’s averaged 10.3 points, 2.9 rebounds and one assist per game this season. One of the only negatives of his season is that he is shooting just 42.3 percent from the floor, which isn’t as effective as you would expect from a starter. The interesting thing about Butler this season is that, even though he’s the starter, he’s played just 24.3 minutes per game. He’s actually second among small forwards on the Clippers in minutes per game; ahead of him is Matt Barnes.
Barnes is also the reason the Clippers shouldn’t worry about Butler’s injury. He’s a good player and a guy that most teams would like to have on their roster, but Barnes has been the better player between the two of them. The evidence of that is that Barnes has been playing the position during crunch-time. The stats also make a pretty good case as well.
In 26 minutes per game, just slightly more than Butler, Barnes has averaged 10.7 points, 4.4 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 1.1 steals and 0.8 blocks this season. His per-game averages are improved from Butler’s and so is his field goal percentage, a full four percent higher than Butler’s at 46.3 percent.
Though it’s hard to justify giving Butler’s spot in the starting lineup to Barnes when Butler hasn’t been struggling, Barnes has probably deserved to be the starter for most of the season. It’s possible that head coach Vinny Del Negro likes bringing Barnes off the bench, which is fine if that helps his plan. It does mean that the Clippers shouldn’t worry about Butler’s injury, though; they’ll be more than fine with Barnes filling in.