Bucks Bring Butler Home
As first reported by Gery Woelfel, the Milwaukee Bucks acquired Racine native Caron Butler in exchange for reserves Ish Smith and Slava Kravtsov. Butler will slide into the starting small forward spot for the Bucks, who didn’t have to give up anything of solid value. Smith was expendable as he looked to only play in deep rotations as the third or forth point guard. Kravtsov was probably fifth in the center rotation behind even Epke Udoh, despite Udoh not being a natural center. This trade also brings the Bucks down to 15 guaranteed contracts, which is the maximum an NBA team can carry during the regular season.
I know many will ask why the Bucks simply didn’t add Butler during the three team trade that sent J.J. Redick to the Clippers in a sign and trade, saw the Clips ship Butler to the Suns, and netted the Bucks a second round pick from each. The first issue is that the Bucks still had cap holds for Monta Ellis, Samuel Dalembert, and Brandon Jennings on their roster at the time. Trading for Butler before these cleared the ledger would have made over moves, such as the signings of O.J. Mayo and Gary Neal, much more complicated. Second, the Bucks were making a run at Atalanta Hawks guard Jeff Teague, signing him to an offer sheet that was later matched by the Hawks and would have had the same complications with Butler’s salary on the roster. Finally, the trade that flipped Brandon Knight and Brandon Jennings between the Bucks and Pistons allegedly came together in just a few days and the Bucks would have no idea they were trading Jennings for a point guard and not a forward at the time of the Redick deal. Additionally, it appears as if the broken foot likely starter Carlos Delfino suffered last year may keep him out into the beginning of the regular season, which made acquiring a small forward essential to not forcing Khris Middleton and Giannis Antetokounmpo into a share of minutes they couldn’t handle.
As for the on court impact of Butler, he is no longer the explosive athlete that could get to the rim at will. He is best suited as a shot up shooter, especially from the corners. The trouble comes when Butler decides to put the ball on the floor instead of shooting. His quickness erosion has caused him to need to pull up for a long or mid range “2″ when he does put the ball on the floor, where despite ok shoot percentages, are no where near as efficient as his 3-point attempts. Defensively, he is no longer a stopper, for the same reasons he doesn’t get to the rim as often. He is still willing to put the effort in and does know what to do defensively and will be helped having a true rim protector behind him, but he will need help on that end. Butler does improve the Bucks roster this year, while still not hampering them long term since his contract is expiring. I would give the trade a B, especially since Herb Kohl seems to want to avoid a rebuild and has tied GM John Hammonds hands a bit.