Butler’s short stay in Phoenix ends with trade to Bucks

Although dealing Caron Butler to the Milwaukee Bucks suggests an altruistic spirit within the Suns organization, there is more to this maneuver than collecting positive karma.

Butler, the 33-year-old small forward acquired from the Los Angeles Clippers in a July trade that brought Eric Bledsoe to Arizona, is from Racine, Wis. A fan of the Bucks growing up, he’s expected — as he was in Phoenix — to be a steadying influence on a young team.

In a tweet posted after news of an expected trade broke Wednesday night, Butler offered some kinds words for the Suns organization.

By adding Butler and his expiring contract worth about $8 million this season, the Bucks are taking another swing at a spot in the Eastern Conference playoffs.

The Suns, who have been successful at adding draft picks over several deals this summer, have a return that simply saves money this season. With Milwaukee $7.5 million under the salary-cap limit, they were able to absorb most of Butler’s contract. What they’re sending back to Phoenix are two players who — barring additional transactions — are long shots to remain on the Suns’ roster.

Point guard Ish Smith, who played at Wake Forest and has worked for six different NBA teams in limited minutes, adds to a positional logjam that includes seemingly expendable 2012 lottery pick Kendall Marshall.

The other take from Milwaukee is second-year Ukrainian center Slava Kravtsov, acquired from the Detroit Pistons in a deal that sent Brandon Jennings to the Motor City.

Between Smith and Kravtsov, the Suns are taking back a bit more than $2 million this season (with no commitments to either player next season); that’s a savings slightly north of $5.75 million for this year. The extra loot could — as pointed out by Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic — make an expected waiving of Michael Beasley less financially painful.

It also could help the Suns swing another trade. The name that continues to rise is center Marcin Gortat, who also is in the final year of his contract and potentially valuable to playoff-contending teams.

With rookie center Alex Len expected to ease his repaired wheels into the season, the Suns figure to keep Gortat until Len appears capable of taking over. But with Miles Plumlee and Kravtsov on a roster that now numbers 17 (the league limit is 15) anything’s possible.

If and when the Suns move Gortat, that and the Butler trade certainly would add to the on-court obstacles faced by first-year head coach Jeff Hornacek.

Moving Butler further diminishes an already limited gathering of perimeter shooters, and Gortat is a proven two-way player in the middle.

Even without adding a draft pick in this transaction, the Suns could  — if the Minnesota Timberwolves qualify for the playoffs – have three selections in the first round in 2014.
If a report out of Wisconsin is accurate, the Suns may have put both feet into the door leading to the 2014 NBA Draft lottery.