Who’s Better: Caron Butler or Tayshaun Prince?

By: 02.17.09  •  43 Comments

We argue. You decide…

CARON BUTLER (by Andrew Katz)
In many ways, these two guys are perfect to compare. They’re very similar in that they’re both multi-talented threes who do a ton for their respective squads. But at the same time, they’re also polar opposites. There’s a spark inside Caron Butler, which occasionally grows into a raging fire. On the other hand, Tayshaun’s poker face is unparalleled in the League. It’s like he can’t make any facial expressions except for his spin on the doo-doo face.

Because Tayshaun produces without drawing any attention to himself, it’s almost as if people flock to be his voice. Granted, he is a game-changer who will make a big block, sink a clutch jumper and completely shift the momentum of a game. But on a play-after-play basis, Prince doesn’t affect a game nearly as much as Caron Butler does. Just look at the numbers: over the last two years, Caron is tallying just over 20 points per night, a shade under seven boards, five assists and two steals. During that same span, Tayshaun is way down around 13 points per night, five boards, three assists, half a steal, and half a block.

Caron ButlerCaron Butler (photo. Kevin Ou)

Throughout the course of a game, Caron can consistently break his man down with a bevy of dribble moves. His spin is absolutely filthy. He has no qualms about getting into the second layer of a defense and finishing among the trees. (Butler is shooting just under 65 percent on “inside” shots, while Prince is around 58%.) He’s got a host of memorable bangers — from the one on Alonzo Mourning to his backcourt steal-and-finish on Andris Biedrins to a two-hander on Andre Miller (all of which you can see HERE). And anytime he gets the better of his opponent, Caron lets that inner fire out, giving his teammates and his fans something to latch on to.

Quantifying the impact of a personality is not an exact science. But with Butler, his passion makes a tangible difference. He combines the mentality of a hustle player with the skill set of a go-to guy. In Dime #36, Caron told our Austin Burton, “I play very aggressive — I got an edge. I see myself as a winner. I make people better. I’m tough, I defend, I’m a threat on offense … I’m gutsy and a proven winner.” Butler has a unique personality that way; he can toot his own horn without being viewed as self-aggrandizing by his peers.

That attitude has been at the core of two All-Star appearances, to zero for Prince. And at 28 years old, Caron is still on the way up. In his last three seasons, his jumper has become far more reliable, thereby making his first step even more difficult to stick with. On the other hand, Tayshaun has shown pretty much the same stuff his entire career. In fact, his best three-season stretch ended two years ago. Caron’s ceiling is much higher. Remember, this is the same guy who was the centerpiece traded for Shaq in that Lakers/Heat deal.

TAYSHAUN PRINCE (by Austin Burton)
After Caron Butler turned into The Black Leonidas and single-handedly broke the Pacers two Sundays ago, I had to give it a few days—plus the All-Star break—before I could genuinely argue that I would prefer Tayshaun Prince on my team. And even still, Caron has a lot going for him: For beating the “at-risk” label and deciding to be an active role model for kids trying to navigate that same dangerous road, I root for him. And from a pure fan standpoint, I’d admittedly rather watch Caron on a night-to-night basis than Tayshaun.

But this isn’t about entertainment; it’s about finding who gives you the best chance of winning games and being a champion. And throughout his career, all Tayshaun Prince has been is a proven winner who gets the job done.

PistonsPrince is Detroit’s glue-guy

I won’t say Tayshaun is underrated, but he might be the most underappreciated player in the game. Because he’s so consistent (13-14 points every year for the last five and a half), because he never seems to speak publicly, because he’s content playing his role on a team that doesn’t operate on the superstar system, everyone takes what Tayshaun does for granted. He’s the perimeter version of Tim Duncan, akin to a pair of durable, comfortable socks; you don’t realize their value until you can’t find them and you’re left in the cold.

(On that note, Tayshaun hasn’t missed a game since 2003. He’s a lock to play a full 82, and that’s on top of annual deep playoff runs and a couple summers with Team USA. He’s even more like a robot than Duncan, who at least shows human frailty via the occasional injury.)

What makes Tayshaun so good? You have to start with defense. Tayshaun owns an Olympic gold medal and an NBA championship ring because he defends multiple positions and seamlessly weaves himself into a stacked team dynamic. Before you get into the numbers game, realize that Prince is built similar to the other specialists he beat out in USA Basketball tryouts; like Bruce Bowen and Shane Battier, Tayshaun’s defense is based less on collecting steals and blocks and more on sticking himself to the other team’s top scorer like a sickness that needs penicillin.

Offensively, Tayshaun is slept-on as a scorer and creator. His resume of game-winners includes recent entries from Game Four of last year’s Detroit/Orland series, and last month’s Detroit/Denver game. Then there was the Pistons’ most recent win, on Feb. 7 in Milwaukee. On a night where his shot suffered (3-11 FG), Tayshaun still managed 13 boards and nine assists, and held Richard Jefferson to a below-average 16 points in a shootout where both teams cracked 120. On the play that put Detroit ahead in the final seconds of regulation before the Bucks forced OT, Tayshaun chased down a long rebound, started the break himself and, after passing up what would have been an awkward driving layup that just about any self-proclaimed scorer would take, patiently waited and assisted Rip Hamilton on the go-ahead jumper from one of Rip’s favorite spots on the floor. How often have you seen Caron so positively impact a game like that when he’s not scoring?

I won’t pretend Caron isn’t a superstar and that most people won’t look at his stats and automatically call this a no-contest. Like I said, Caron’s got a lot going for him. But when you consider somebody who’s never rattled by any situation the game presents, who’s never averse to stepping in front of a 25-point scorer or becoming a 25-point scorer himself, who’s never been on a bad team, who’s never a question mark, Tayshaun Prince has a lot going for him, too.

Who do you think is better?

“Who’s better?” archives
12/24 — Marcus Camby vs. Andrew Bynum
12/19 — Deron Williams vs. Chauncey Billups
12/17 — Manu Ginobili vs. Tracy McGrady
12/12 — Amare Stoudemire vs. Al Jefferson
12/10 — Dirk Nowitzki vs. Chris Bosh
12/9 — Derrick Rose vs. O.J. Mayo
12/8 — Rasheed Wallace vs. Elton Brand
12/5 — Kevin Martin vs. Vince Carter
12/4 — Brandon Roy vs. Joe Johnson
12/3 — Dwight Howard vs. Yao Ming
12/2 — Paul Pierce vs. Carmelo Anthony

Around The Web