After a few weeks of inactivity, the Milwaukee Bucks’ summer of roster turnover continued Thursday. The Bucks have acquired small forward Caron Butler from the Phoenix Suns in exchange for point guard Ish Smith and center Viacheslav Kravtsov.
Butler has played for five teams over his 11-year NBA career, spending last season with the Los Angeles Clippers. The 33-year-old averaged 10.4 points, 2.9 rebounds and 1.0 assists per game while shooting 42.4 percent from the floor last season in 78 starts for the Clippers.
Growing up in Racine, Wis., Butler was arrested 15 times before he turned 15 years old. He spent time as a young teenager at Ethan Allen School for Boys in Wales, Wis., and has completely turned his life around.
After becoming a first-team all-state performer at Racine Park High School, Butler played two seasons at Maine Central Institute before finishing his college career at Connecticut. Drafted 10th overall by Miami in the 2002 NBA Draft, Butler has averaged 15.5 points and 5.4 rebounds per game in his career with the Heat, Lakers, Wizards, Mavericks and Clippers.
With free-agent addition Carlos Delfino still recovering from a fractured bone in his right foot, Butler adds veteran depth to the small forward position. Still active in the Racine community, Butler is thought of as a positive influence in the locker room and likely will embrace his homecoming.
“We’re very excited to welcome Caron back home,” Bucks general manager John Hammond said in a statement. “He is an accomplished veteran player who started 78 games last season for a 56-win team in Los Angeles. Caron gives us depth at the small forward position and will be a mentor for our younger players.”
Butler, a two-time All-Star, has one year remaining on his contract at $8 million and is changing teams for the second time this offseason. The Bucks were also involved in Butler’s first trade this offseason, as Milwaukee signed and traded guard J.J. Redick to the Clippers, Butler and guard Eric Bledsoe went to Phoenix with a pair of second-round picks coming to the Bucks.
Suns general manager Ryan McDonough spoke of keeping Butler at the team’s introductory press conference and even used the veteran as a model of the team’s new uniforms at an unveiling event last week.
In Smith and Kravtsov, the Bucks give up two players lacking a role on the roster. Acquired from Orlando along with Redick and Gustavo Ayon in the Tobias Harris trade, Smith averaged 2.4 points and 1.9 assists over just 8.6 minutes per game in 16 games with the Bucks.
Lightning quick but undersized, Smith didn’t stand out in summer league and was set to enter training camp as the team’s fourth point guard with an uphill climb to make the roster.
Kravtsov, acquired from Detroit as part of the Brandon Jennings’s trade in late July, didn’t seem to have a spot on Milwaukee’s roster going forward. The 25-year-old Ukrainian center averaged 3.1 points and 1.8 rebounds in nine minutes per game in 25 contests last season for Detroit.
“This deal gives us significant cap space as well as the flexibility to trade for another exciting player,” McDonough said in a statement. “It also provides us with two young players in our efforts to build a team capable of sustainable success.”
The Bucks will take on some salary in the deal, cutting their cap room from $8 million to just over $5 million. Smith is set to make $985,000 this season, while Kravtsov is owed $1.5 million. Both are expiring contracts.
Milwaukee now returns just Larry Sanders, Ersan Ilyasova, John Henson and Ekpe Udoh from last year’s roster, making this the biggest roster turnover in franchise history. The Bucks have returned five players just four times in franchise history, but never just four.