The Suns announced Thursday the trade of forward Caron Butler to the Bucks in exchange for guard Ish Smith and center Viacheslav Kravtsov. The Arizona Republic first reported terms of the deal on Wednesday night.
"Much respect for the organization of the [Phoenix] Suns," Butler wrote on Twitter. "Stay tuned."
Butler, 33, was acquired by Phoenix in July as part of a three-team trade involving the Suns, Bucks and Clippers. Butler and Eric Bledsoe were sent from Los Angeles to Phoenix for Jared Dudley, while Milwaukee agreed to sign-and-trade J.J. Redick to L.A. for multiple second-round picks.
An 11-year veteran, Butler averaged 10.4 points and 2.9 rebounds in 24.1 minutes during 78 appearances for the Clippers last season. He will make $8 million in 2013-14, the final year of his current contract. The Point Forward noted in July that Butler's expiring contract could well be flipped by the Suns, who have no real use for his services as they undertake a long-term rebuilding project under new GM Ryan McDonough and new coach Jeff Hornacek.
“We’re very excited to welcome Caron back home,” Bucks GM 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.”
There's sufficient reason for Butler, who hails from Wisconsin, to be excited by the prospect of this move, as he leaves what could be the Western Conference's worst team for a Bucks squad that should be in the mix for an Eastern Conference playoff spot. Milwaukee has Carlos Delfino and O.J. Mayo in place on the wings, but adding a physical, experienced scorer to the mix falls under the "Why not?" category, especially because Delfino had foot surgery in June that was expected to sideline him for 4-to-6 months. Milwaukee sits roughly $6 million below the salary cap line before the trade and can absorb the difference between the incoming and outgoing salaries into that space.
Smith, 25, was acquired by the Bucks from the Magic in a February trade that also landed Redick and Gustavo Ayon in exchange for Tobias Harris, Doron Lamb and Beno Udrih. A three-year veteran who went undrafted out of Wake Forest, Smith averaged 2.4 points and 1.7 assists in 52 appearances for the Magic and Bucks last season. Smith is set to make $951,000 this season and his 2014-15 contract is non-guaranteed.
Kravtsov, 26, was acquired by the Bucks from the Pistons along with Brandon Knight and Khris Middleton in a July sign-and-trade deal that sent Brandon Jennings to Detroit. Kravtsov played professionally in his native Ukraine from 2005 to 2012 before joining the Pistons, where he averaged 3.1 points and 1.8 rebounds in 25 appearances as a rookie last season. Kravtsov is on the books for $1.5 million this year.
From the Suns' standpoint, the motivation here appears to be primarily financial, as Smith and Kravtsov wouldn't figure to be high priorities given Phoenix's roster make-up. Smith joins a crowded backcourt that includes Bledsoe, incumbent starting point guard Goran Dragic, Shannon Brown, 2013 first-round pick Archie Goodwin, 2012 lottery pick Kendall Marshall, Gerald Green and Malcolm Lee. How that rotation shakes out there is anyone's guess, and it's certainly possible McDonough isn't done dealing. Prior to Kravtsov's arrival, Phoenix already had incumbent starter Marcin Gortat, 2013 lottery pick Alex Len and Miles Plumlee at the center position.
“We would like to thank Caron for his professionalism and wish him the best with the Milwaukee," McDonough said in a statement. “This deal gives us significant cap space as well as the flexibility to trade for another exciting player, which is how we were able to acquire Eric Bledsoe. It also provides us with two young players in our efforts to build a team capable of sustainable success.” The trade cuts roughly $5.5 million from Phoenix's payroll and puts them in the vicinity of the league's $52.8 million salary floor.