The first big splash of the Ryan McDonough era came when the Suns traded Jared Dudley for Eric Bledsoe. The cost of acquiring Bledsoe was taking veteran Caron Butler off the Clippers' books. Butler has had a terrific career, but with his high salary and age-induced decline, he was no longer making a positive impact for the Clippers. However, one team's trash is another team's treasure. Where Butler was simply getting in the way for the Clippers, he will be a valuable asset for the Suns, regardless of the way they choose to use him.
I've seen a lot of comments on this blog about getting Butler out of Phoenix as soon as possible. After all, he's a veteran on a rebuilding team and all he's going to do is provide a few extra wins. The Suns traded away Luis Scola following similar logic. Why shouldn't Butler be next?
Butler does have value as a trade asset. Expiring contracts are always attractive to teams needing financial relief, and Butler is a sizable one with $8 million being owed to him this year in the final year of his contract (which also makes him the highest-paid player on the Suns roster). With Goran Dragic/Eric Bledsoe, Mook Morris, P.J. Tucker, Shannon Brown, Gerald Green and Archie Goodwin, the Suns have more than enough depth on the wing to move Butler without having to worry about it leaving a hole in the roster.
Trading Butler is something GM Ryan McDonough should and probably already has considered. If the Suns can get another asset back for him, make the move. However, Butler has plenty of value if the Suns hold onto him, and that might be the more likely option.
... Or Sticking Around?
In every press release and press conference, Caron Butler has been mentioned as a big part of the team. Why would the Suns give him so much attention if the plan was simply to dump him as soon as possible? I haven't seen Malcolm Lee even mentioned by the Suns, and the latest acquisitions haven't received as much attention either.
Caron "Tough Juice" Butler has yet to step on the court in a Suns jersey, but even so he's already being looked at as a team leader. Butler has been around the league a long time. He's not afraid to be vocal. He was an All-Star in his day and as such might have more credibility with the young players than someone like P.J. Tucker. He's been there and done that in the NBA.
He also has a very obvious and important role on this team. For those faint of heart, you may not want to look to closely at the following table. For those with strong stomachs, take a look at the 3-point percentage column.
The Suns were 28th in the NBA in 3-point shooting, trailing only Orlando and Minnesota in their ineptness. As you can see, the Suns only had two players on the team that were above the league average from deep of 35.9 percent. Those two would be Jared Dudley and Sebastian Telfair. Those two will also be playing for other teams this year.
Let this sink in for a moment: Markieff Morris is the Suns' best returning 3-point shooter at 33.6 percent. Excuse me for a moment while I go cry in the corner.
Channing Frye will be back this season barring a setback with his heart, and will probably be the best shooter on the team by default. However, Frye shot a sub-par 34.6 percent in 2011-12 after taking it easy in the offseason while expecting the lock-out to drag on longer than it did. How will his shot fare after an entire year off the court?
Gerald Green is a career 35.1 percent 3-point shooter, but he only shot 31.4 percent last year and I don't even know if he's going to be in the rotation.
Expecting rookie Archie Goodwin to continue his hot shooting from Summer League all season long is just setting yourself up for disappointment, and while Eric Bledsoe shot a respectable 39.7 percent last year, it was on a limited number of attempts, most of which were of the wide open spot-up variety.
No, this is where the Suns need Caron Butler.
Throughout his career, Butler was more of a mid-range shooter and slasher. The 3-ball really wasn't a significant part of his game. However, that changed when he arrived in Los Angeles two years ago. With Blake Griffin in the paint, Chris Paul handling the ball and Butler getting up there in age, he completely re-designed his game and became a spot up shooter. He made 92 threes (26 more than his previous career high) at a 35.8 percent clip, and made 128 of them while shooting a very solid 38.8 percent last season.
The Suns are planning on rolling with a Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe backcourt. Both of those players are at their best when they are getting in the paint and causing havoc. To have the space to play their games, they are going to need shooters on the court with them, and outside of Frye Butler is the best shooter the Suns have on the roster at the moment.
Butler isn't going to have a huge impact on the Suns final record, but his presence may allow the Suns' young guards to grow and to play their games.
Finally, Butler is valuable to the Suns as an expiring contract as well. The Suns are right at the cap this season, and to have any chance at making big moves or signing free agents in the next two years, they'll need some cap space. If the Suns hold onto Butler all year long, that's $8 million that comes off the books in addition to the other expiring contracts.
I've made my case. What do you Bright Siders think the Suns should do with James Caron Butler this year? (Yes, Caron is actually his middle name according to Basketball-Reference)