NBA / Feb 17, 2009 / 12:17 pm

Who’s Better: Caron Butler or Tayshaun Prince?

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

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  • Jah


    I’m going with Caron!

  • infinite dip

    prince has a ring beating the lakers “dream team”, and caron has two all star appearances. i will take the guy with the ring.

  • control

    Depends on what situation you have the player going into. A situation like the one Detroit is in, you want Prince on your team more than Butler. If you have another extremely dominate SG/SF, then I’d want Prince. As far as straight skills though, Butler has it.

    BTW, I wouldn’t call Caron Butler a “superstar” in any situation, yeah he’s a star, but “superstar” is going a little far.

  • -_-

    caron butler. not even close.
    and thats a streach comparing prince to duncan… maybe if he had more offence, overall skill.
    plus prince is all gangly and shit

  • goonther


  • jason

    detroit’s offense does allow prince to average 20ppg whereas butler has the green light…therefore you can’t look down on prince’s offensive abilities.

  • Fabian

    caron butler. no question.

  • Heckler…formerly ‘yallallreadyknow’

    offense: caron butler
    defense: tayshaun prince

    OVERALL: I push…..

  • Drink the Haterade (KB24 Chip 09)

    I remember watching Tayshaun in HS draining NBA range threes… But I like Tayshaun better, defense wins championships. On Offense Caron is better, but they both do different things for their squads.

  • karizmatic

    I think it’s very difficult to say who is better. Unlike Katz I don’t believe these players are alike at all. Rather, I think they demonstrate the difficulties of trying to compare small forwards in the NBA, they are two different types of guys. Tayshaun is a defensive stopper and all around guy, while Caron is a definite number two scoring option on a team. Caron can play defense when he is so inclined, but he’s much more comfortable and more effective scoring. Caron could put up the same numbers playing the 2 as he could the 3, while Tayshaun’s game is so versatile people think (wrongly) that he could run point. Prince is long enough that he could defend at least four positions well. The other thing I’d like to point out is Caron was not the center piece of the Shaq trade. Lamar Odom was, and Caron was promptly traded to the Wizards by the Lakers for Kwame Brown, which was perhaps the dumbest trade in Laker history.

    In the end these guys are valuable for different reasons, so who you think is better depends on what type of team you’re trying to build. If you’re trying to build a hard nosed defense oriented team that has a good post player and a point guard and a good pure shooting 2, you might say Prince. If you’re trying to build a quick striking athletic team that already has a number one scorer on the perimeter and you want a good second option to go with him, then you go with Caron.

    But these guys are too different in terms of style to reliably say who is better. The team I’d build would have more use for Tayshaun, although due to stats and things like that I would be tempted to take Caron.

  • http://GEE2.com GEE…”I Left My Wallet In El Segundo!”

    Who is better period? Caron.

    Not who is the better for a team, not who is better on D or O, just who is better.

    When you leave it open as to including all things.
    Caron is better.

    Again we can’t go on if Tayshaun had a green light or if this or that. It’s not about who has rings because that is based on the “team”. When you put all accolades aside and the rest of the teams they been on and compare production.

    Caron is better.

  • Prof. TX

    If adding to a team, it depends what the team needs, more D or more O. If it’s a blank slate or no team in particular, I’d take Butler.

  • hahns

    katz’s knocks against tay are so ridiculously biased- he was on a detroit squad w/ 4 other stars, and he was the role player who played his role to perfection. he would never be an all star bc he doestn put up gaudy stats and always plays behind the other four piston starters.

    that being said, tay was phenomenal in the olympics. him and wade were instrumental in beating back the spaniards in the gold medal game.

    but im going to go w/ the cop out answer and say it depends on the make up of your team on who you choose. if you need a leader and a work horse- you gota go w/ caron- i just dont think tay has it in him to carry a team like caron could. but if you need someone to play along side someone like bron- id go w/ tay.

  • karizmatic

    I’m not sure that’s the cop out answer. How do you judge who is better? Who would win a game one on one? Who you would take first if you could draft them in mock draft? That still depends on what your vision is. I don’t think you could go wrong with either. As a matter of fact whoever you pick is probably going to determine what you do with your team.

  • Ian

    is this even a question
    who would u want on a team first? caron easy

    heckler that push thing wasnt that smart
    ok here one for u

    offense kobe
    defense bowen

    overall push???
    yeah exactly

    this thing isnt even close caron is the 3rd best sf in the league prince doesnt crack the top 5

    dime a perimeter version of duncan??? gtfoh

  • Drink the Haterade (KB24 Chip 09)

    @ Karizmatic– “Caron was promptly traded to the Wizards by the Lakers for Kwame Brown, which was perhaps the dumbest trade in Laker history”.

    I beg to differ, Kwame Brown brought the Lakers Pau Gasol. At the time it may have seemed that way, but the gold was that by getting Kwame the Lakers using his exp contract got Gasol.

  • Ian

    please man that was west doing his team a favor

  • Heckler…formerly ‘yallallreadyknow’


    i am not so sure you take bowen on defense over kobe. so erase your ‘push’ methods in reference to me. thanks for coming out, god bless. good night. loser.

  • http://www.myspace.com/beenobrown BROGDEN

    I like Caron’s game on the blacktop.

    Tayshaun on the hardwood.

  • Detroit Dave

    Tayshaun is the ultimate role player. I really believe he could go somewhere and score 19pts a game. HE is one of the rare players that can play with ANY superstar in the League.. Caron is a better scorer and is more aggressive. Tayshaun’s versality is his gift and his curse. Because offensive he isn’t great at any 1 thing coaches seem to just throw him in a corner and let him spot up and throw him a random low post oppurtunity. I watch EVERY PISTON GAME. Although he isn’t a superstar there isn’t one team in the league where he could get 30mpg. He’s just a guy that plays and the coach doesn’t have to worry about him… kinda like Andre Miller

  • karizmatic

    @ Haterade, I understand that logic I was going to put that in my already too long response, but I decided against it. The thing is I could only consider it intelligent if we could say that the Lakers knew down the road that they were going to be able to get Gasol for Brown. Since they didn’t know I have to say that it was an egregious (yes I used the word egregious) error on the Laker’s part. It was a complete misjudgment of talent. I also believe that had the Lakers kept Butler they would have been a quite likely would still be just as competitive a team.

    For those reasons I still maintain it was a terrible trade, the Lakers just got lucky, that Memphis was willing to make an equally terrible trade later on.

  • doc


  • karizmatic

    I mean

    “I also believe that had the Lakers kept Butler they would have been a(nd) quite likely would still be just as competitive a team.”

  • Detroit Dave

    #15 — Carmelo, LeBron, Pierce, Danny Granger, Kevin Durant, Rudy Gay, Stephen Jackson, Joe Johnson, Andre Iggy….. All of these guys can argue that they are just as good or better than Caron

  • the cynic

    If my team doesn’t have talent and im trying to build a winner, I would want Caron. If my team is already good, I would want Prince to push it over the top

  • karizmatic

    @ Detroit Dave…thanks…when he said 3rd best I was like really? 3rd best? Lebron, Melo, Pierce…I don’t see Caron there.

    ALthough you probably have to classify Johnson as a 2.

  • LakeShow84

    If i am building a functioning team then i pick Tayshaun..

    If u are asking who is flatout better?? Caron..

    Caron can defend with intensity and give give you boards and assists for having minimal handles and minimal size.. plus he can score with the best of them..

    We’ve already seen Tayshaun struggle in the 2nd option role.. I dont think he is too hot offensively.. but i will say its more mental for him than anything..

  • thomasmmm

    Caron on the Pistons would be wicked. Tay on the Wizards would be normal.

  • YOUNGFED…”My neighborhood was the roughest, but still I remain. Just kept stackin’ my change remained the same.”

    Im going to take Prince (the olympian) over Caron (the hog) Butler all day. Yal cant really knock Tay for his O because dude played with 4 allstars. Caron aint even on Tay level.

  • Drink the Haterade (KB24 Chip 09)

    Youngfed, I gotta agree with you– I really like Tysons game.

    Also– I just got a guy that’s 6’8 to play C, my starting front court will be 6-4, 6-4, and 6-8, with two guys off the bench at 6-3 and 6-5. Were gonna smash

    Karazmatic– OK I see your point

  • Marci

    Caron Butler

  • Luigi

    im sorry. as a wizards fan. you DO NOT KNOW how much Caron MEANS to the Wiz

    i mean without Caron were in competition for the worst record of all time. i mean if you want a cornerstone then u want Butler….if u want a do it all role player then u want Tay.

    Anyways. Caron kan turn into the modern day Alex English or Sidney Moncrief …scoring at will…n turn into a Lockdown Scottie D.

    i love Tay. but even my cousin [whos a DIE HARD DETROIT FAN!!!] would say Caron is Better.

  • Luigi

    oh and for those who call Caron a Hog….

    who does he have to pass too?.

    -Twan gets his Rebs. n putbacks.
    -Nick is young Kobe

    n also hes our leading AST man too

  • Ian


    LOL loser??? dude please i was making an example of how damn stupid your comparisons are.
    pick any defensive player and hes a push over kobe or bron is what u r sayin

    i cant take the comment back is flat out stupid.

    hey one more for u
    rodman defense
    wilt offense

    right? lol

  • dukesman2000

    Andrew, you made a great argument for Caron Butler but the “I am a proven winner” piece is absolutely false. Caron has not won anything.

  • dukesman2000

    Oh Prince is better

  • http://www.inspiredworlds.wordpress.com inspiredworlds

    let me put it another way.

    would the Wiz trade butler for prince? of course not. Would Joe Dumars, pull the trigger on prince for butler? fo sure, coz he’d have a go-to scorer, potential superstar.

  • dapro

    Tough Juice gets the nod for me

    The thing about Tay is he will never be #1 option on a team or the #2 option that gives you 18-22 a night

    Tay is more what if than he can

    I’ve seen what Caron can do and he’s the better of the two

  • tim

    Prince would beat Butler in one on one every single time…

  • Biglang Liko

    Caron hands down. Is this even worth debating?

    Tayshaun is a great defender and team player but caron is at least a legit 2nd option.

  • http://www.dimemag.com The Jed

    I like Tayshaun but he’s proved to be inconsistent, especially shooting the ball. The only knock on Caron is that he’s injury prone, but he’s a better ball player.

  • ejay

    CB3 by far.

    End of convo.

  • Jeremy

    caron produces all star numbers
    tay produces all star value the difference numbers cant flatter people make them appear better but in terms of value tay has caron covered. plays multiple positions score from outside and in the post and is a lock down defender who has made a habit of making clutch plays on both ends in big games. his value cant be translated in numbers. it would be interesting to see his numbers if he was in a team that required him to score more