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Moose and Tuff Juice: 30 Years of Heat

Willie Burton and Caron Butler are featured in today’s article.

Willie Burton

32. Willie Burton

Willie Burton, born in Detroit, MI on May 26th, 1968, was a 6'8" small forward for Saint Martin De Porres High in his hometown. He played four seasons with the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers. His last two seasons with the school would see him average 19 points, seven rebounds, and two assists per game. Miami selected him in the first round of the 1990 draft with the ninth overall pick. He signed a five year contract with Miami for $6,258,000.

Burton's rookie season was his best with Miami. He averaged 12 points, 3.4 rebounds, and 1.4 assists per game. He shot 44.1% from the field, playing 25.4 minutes per game, starting in 26 of his 76 appearances. Miami went 22-54 in his appearances, as he racked up 44 games with 10 or more points and five double doubles. On opening night, a 119-95 victory over the Washington Bullets, he hit nine-of-14 shots for 25 points, with three rebounds and two steals. Four nights later, he earned a double double with 17 points and 12 rebounds as the Heat dropped a 106-94 decision to the Milwaukee Bucks. On December 27th, he scored 27 points with 11 rebounds in a 124-114 win over the Denver Nuggets. The Heat finished at 24-58.

In 1991-92, Burton started 50 games at small forward, joining the action off the bench on 18 occasions. He hit 45% of his shots, scoring an average of 11.2 points, 3.6 rebounds, and 1.8 assists per game. He helped the team to a 29-39 record in his presence. On November 7th, he hit nine-of-12 shots, leading the Heat with 24 points and nine rebounds as they set down the New Jersey Nets 111-89. On the 5th of February, in a 126-124 win over the Golden State Warriors, he scored a season high 28 points with five rebounds and six assists. Miami snuck into the postseason at 38-44, but left quietly in three straight to the Chicago Bulls and their triangle offense. Burton did not make an appearance.

1992-93 would see Burton limited to just 26 games, including eight starts. An average night consisted of eight points, three rebounds, and an assist, as he shot 38.3% in 17.3 minutes per game. His best game was the opener, when he scored a season high 23 points with eight rebounds in a loss to the Orlando Magic, 110-100. Miami went 9-17 with Burton, and 36-46 overall.

1993-94 would be Burton's last season with the Heat. He shot 43.8% through 53 games, playing just 13.2 minutes and scoring seven points with 2.6 rebounds per appearance. On December 14th, in a 97-88 loss to the 20-1 Houston Rockets, he scored 17 points with eight rebounds. He scored a season high 28 points on March 22nd in a loss to the Phoenix Suns, 124-118. Miami went 42-40 on their way to a first round exit, three games to two against the Atlanta Hawks. Burton played a total of 11 minutes, scoring two points in the series.

Burton was waived just before the start of the 1994-95 season, where he was quickly picked up by the Philadelphia 76ers. After having totalled 18 three pointers on 75 attempts for the Heat over four years, the Sixers rebranded him as a deep threat. He responded by draining 106-of-275 from outside, a 38.5% success rate. After 53 games with Philadelphia, Burton played with the Hawks (24 games), the San Antonio Spurs (13 games), and the Charlotte Hornets (three games). After his final NBA appearance, he has had stints with Iraklio (Greece), the Oklahoma Storm (USBL), the Idaho Stampede (CBA), PBC Ural Great Perm (Russia), the Great Lakes Storm (CBA), and Sagesse (Lebanon). In 2016, Burton was chosen as one of the Golden Gophers’ all-time starting five:

Stat Line: 223 games, 20.9 minutes, .439 field goals, .240 three-pointers, .773 free throws, 10.1 points, 3.2 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 0.7 steals, 12.6 PER, 5.9 Win Shares.

Cumulative GameScore: 1343.3

31. Caron Butler

Caron Butler is a 6'7" small forward from Racine, WI. Born on March 13th, 1980, he played high school ball at Maine Central Institute, and joined the University of Connecticut Huskies in college. He played two seasons there, averaging 18 points with 7.6 rebounds and three assists. The Heat picked him in the first round of the 2002 NBA Draft, with the 10th overall pick.

As a rookie, Butler shot 41.6% from the floor in 36.6 minutes per game. He shot 31.8% from three point range, and scored 15.4 points (team second), 5.1 rebounds (team third), 2.7 assists (team fifth), and a team leading 1.8 steals per appearance. He finished in double figures 65 times with three double doubles and helped the Heat to a 24-54 record for games in which he appeared. On January 8th, in an 86-76 loss to the Denver Nuggets, he scored 20 points with seven steals and three assists. He scored 20 points with nine rebounds and five assists in a 93-83 win against the Washington Wizards on March 2nd. In a 111-84 Heat win over the Minnesota TimberWolves on March 28th, he scored a season high 35 points on 15-of-22 shooting with seven assists, four steals, three rebounds and two blocks. Miami went 25-57 on the season, placing 13th in the Eastern Conference.

In 2003-04, Butler started 56 times out of his 68 total games played. He scored 9.2 points (team fourth) on 38% shooting with 4.8 boards (team fifth), 1.9 assists (team fourth), and 1.1 steals (team fourth) per game. His three point percentage dropped to 23.8%. He notched five double doubles, and scored 10 or more points 33 times. Miai went 39-29 in his appearances, and 42-40 overall. In a 105-96 win over the Chicago Bullson March 29th, he scored a season high 30 points with 13 rebounds, five assists, three steals and two blocks in 40 minutes. He scored 19 points with 14 rebounds and four dimes on April 3rd, in another win over the Bulls, 97-83. Miami earned the fourth seed. After eliminating the New Orleans Hornets in seven games in the first round, they lost to the Indiana Pacers in six. Butler played in all 13 Miami contests, raising his scoring average to 12.8 with 8.5 rebounds, 2.8 assists, and 1.2 steals. He scored over 20 points three times, including the Heat's 77-71 loss to the Hornets in game three on April 24th, when he scored 24 points with 15 boards.

After the season, Butler was traded with Brian Grant, Lamar Odom, and two draft picks (Jordan Farmar and Renaldas Seibutis) to the Los Angeles Lakers for Shaquille O'Neal. After 77 games with the Lakers in 2004-05, he joined the Washington Wizards (310 games), making two all-star games. Later on, he played with the Dallas Mavericks (58 games), the Los Angeles Clippers (141 games), the Milwaukee Bucks (34 games), the Oklahoma City Thunder (22 games), the Detroit Pistons (78 games), and the Sacramento Kings (17 games). He hasn’t appeared since the 2015-16 season after the Kings bought out his player option for the following season.

Stat Line: 146 games, 33.5 minutes, .402 field goals, .295 three-pointers, .802 free throws, 12.5 points, 5.0 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1.5 steals, 13.3 PER, 7.3 Win Shares.

Cumulative GameScore: 1365.3