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Phoenix Suns trade veteran Caron Butler for cap space, roster flexibility

The Phoenix Suns traded veteran Caron Butler to his hometown team last night, sending him to Milwaukee in exchange for Ish Smith, Slava Kravtsov and nearly $6 million in cap space. Butler was only a Sun for about six weeks.


While Caron Butler would have provided a good locker room presence - for both the players and the media - his spot in the rotation was always unneeded. A rebuilding team should not play a late-career veteran on his last breath of NBA value. It's not good for the vet (as we know with Luis Scola last season), not good for the kids who need room to grow and ultimately not good for future draft pick position.

And then boom. On a sleepy, boring Wednesday night, Butler was gone. Reportedly at his request, and to a city he wanted to go.

Vets win games, even if it's only a few of them. And when a team is in dogfight with Philadelphia, among others, for the best draft selection next spring, every loss counts.

But I, for one, will miss the chance to speak to Caron throughout the season.

Oh Caron, we hardly knew ye.

After being acquired along with Eric Bledsoe from the Clippers, Butler attended his introductory press conference in mid-July speaking of looking forward to a new chapter in his life as a needed veteran on a young team. New GM Ryan McDonough spoke of wanting Butler for years, and being thrilled at finally handing him.

Right after that, Butler moved to the Valley to enroll his kid in school by the beginning of the term. He entrenched himself, went "all in". The thought of Butler as a Phoenix Sun for the entire season began to sink in to Suns fans.

Just two weeks ago, Butler was the centerpiece of the Suns Jersey Reveal Fashion Show. Afterward, he was eloquent and full of promise for the upcoming Suns season. Soon after that, he did interviews on wanting to mentor Michael Beasley back to the land of the NBA.

And then boom. On a sleepy, boring Wednesday night, Butler was gone. Reportedly at his request, and to a city he wanted to go.

No word on whether Butler put in his trade request immediately after having to wear the sleeved jersey.

No word on whether Beasley contacted Butler after his proclamation of mentorship, after which Butler realized what an uphill battle it would be.

It appears that something changed.

But then again, the declining 33-year-old Butler never did make sense for this team. He ate up cap space, and promised to choke down 30 precious minutes a night that could go to a younger player.

Now Butler is in Milwaukee.

What does this mean for the Suns?

It means the Suns are back to having about $6 million in cap space, just like they were at the beginning of the summer.

It means the Suns effectively traded Jared Dudley and a second round pick for Eric Bledsoe, Slava Kravtsov and Ish Smith.

Still a very good deal for the Suns, assuming Bledsoe plays well enough to earn Dudley's minutes. The latter two have no future with the Suns unless there's a rash of injuries during voluntary pickup games next month. Otherwise, they are toast.

Kravtsov, 25, was the backup C for Detroit last season in a limited role. He was traded to Milwaukee just a month ago in the Jennings/Knight trade as salary filler, who immediately slotted him for release from his contract. Milwaukee was loaded in the front court, so there was no room at the inn for the Ukrainian. The Suns already have Gortat, Len and Plumlee wanting C minutes, so Kravtsov faces elimination here too. Ironically, now Detroit is short on big men and has since been looking at guys like Jason Collins.

Ish Smith is a journeyman who won't crack a PG rotation already overloaded with Dragic, Bledsoe, Marshall and even Diante Garrett.

But again, the Suns have their cap space back. The same space they used to get Bledsoe in the first place. With punitive luxury tax damages threatening many of league's teams next spring, cap space is a very nice thing to have.

What's next?

Well, the Suns now have 17 players under guaranteed contracts for the upcoming season.

In the small picture, decisions still loom on Channing Frye (heart) and Michael Beasley (brain). Frye is still waiting for results on his latest tests, but since he hasn't started working out yet it appears unlikely he will play this season.

Maybe the extra cap space will make releasing Beasley and his $6 million contract this season more palatable. It's always been best for the Suns to release Beasley after September 1 to apply (and pay) his entire 2013-14 salary as quickly as possible, leaving only $3 million eating space in the future. With plenty of cap space now (about $6 million, counting Beasley's money), the Suns have the flexibility to eat that $6 million his season without hurting their trade opportunities.

The Suns also are unlikely to blink an eye if they need to release any or all of Malcolm Lee (884K), Kravtsov (1.5 mil) or Ish Smith (900K) to get down to 15 players by the regular season.

In the big picture, the Suns are still positioned to make a larger move for better individual talent. Whether that happens in September or October, February (trade deadline), June (Draft) or even July is up to McDonough finding the right deal(s).

He's shown he can tear down pretty well. At some point, he will build the Suns back up. So far, it appears that the build up will be conveniently timed to bear fruit AFTER the vaunted 2014 Draft.

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