(Note: If you're back here for the update, it is at the bottom of the post)
Hey look! This is NOT Larry Sanders news!
Gery Woelfel of the Racine Journal Times reports that the Milwaukee Bucks are in ''serious'' discussions with the Phoenix Suns to bring small forward and Racine native Caron Butler to Milwaukee.
You may remember Butler's name being mentioned earlier this summer as a possible piece for the Bucks and rest assured, you are not going crazy (I think). Butler was part of the three-team trade that sent JJ Redick and Jared Dudley to the Los Angeles Clippers, Eric Bledsoe and Butler to the Phoenix Suns, and two second-round picks to Milwaukee.
You may ask yourself, "Why couldn't the Bucks have just gotten Butler intially?" There really is no solid answer to that other than the Bucks didn't exactly have tons of leverage to snag Butler back then. Yeah, the Bucks ''had'' JJ Redick, but he wasn't under contract like Dudley was in Phoenix. So while Phoenix may never really have had Butler in their future plans, they had enough leverage with a player under contract to get both the more coveted Bledsoe and Butler. Or maybe the Bucks weren't that interested in Butler anyway, seeing as how they were set to clear a ton of cap space that might have been useful on bigger and better things than Caron Butler.
So, how would Butler fit in Milwaukee? Though he's fallen off significantly since his all-star days in Washington, he would almost surely start over Carlos Delfino, Khris Middleton, and Giannis Antetokounmpo. Despite the off season moves, the small forward spot remains a position of weakness, and the addition of Butler would be an upgrade to the Bucks' overall depth (though an upgrade may not be what Bucks fans would want. More on that in a bit).
Also consider that in Woelfel's article he mentions that Delfino is still rehabbing from surgery he had for a broken bone in his right foot that may require him to miss all of the preseason and possibly a bit of the regular season. Whether that's entirely true remains to be seen, but the thought of the Bucks being left with Middleton and Antetokounmpo on the depth chart to begin the season is, well, gross.
Per contra to Butler being an upgrade for this roster, this move pushes the Bucks more squarely into that 35-40 win territory that the Bucks' faithful all know and hate, rather than leave room for potential fluctuation.
Also, this would fill up the rest of the cap flexibility that the Bucks had. They have about $7.5 million remaining, and Butler's salary for 2013-2014 is $8 million. Quick math reveals that that would, in fact, eat up the rest of that room provided the Bucks didn't ship much back to Arizona. However, Butler's deal expires after the season, so it's at least not crippling long-term. Timing here is important: whereas seven weeks ago the Bucks may have been wary of using a big chunk of their cap space to absorb Butler's salary, at this point they have far fewer options for putting that money to use.
Conventional wisdom suggests that some combination of Ekpe Udoh, Slava Kravtsov, and/or some of those roughly 400 second round picks could go back to Phoenix as part of the deal. Udoh has long been speculated as the odd man out in Milwaukee, and Kravtsov never really made sense on the roster, though he totally had a legitimate, super-not-made-up, and life-changing experience while he was in Milwaukee.
A 12-year veteran, Butler started 78 out of 82 games with the Clippers last season, averaging 10.2 points and 2.4 rebounds in 24.1 minutes while splitting time with Matt Barnes. Though he defended respectably in his two seasons with the Clippers, Butler's calling card remains that of a middling-efficiency scorer--though with age he's become less effective around the hoop and more dependent on his ability to knock down threes (38.8%, 35.8% and 43.1% the last three seasons).
According to Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic, the Bucks will ship out point guard Ish Smith and center Viacheslav Kravtsov in exchange for Butler. No picks will be swapped, surprisingly. The deal is set to be finalized tomorrow sometime.