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Rasual Butler Traded to the Clippers

Thanks for getting the Rasual Butler trade news up Citizen Zhiv.  Also thanks to Citizens 69Knicks and meercatjohn for getting FanPosts up.  Remember to check to see if someone already has posted of course,  It's not a big deal, but if we only post it once, then everyone knows where to put comments.  But better safe than sorry - I'd much rather have it twice than not at all.

While we're on the logisticial subject, Citizen Zhiv did the right thing by posting it to the front page - even if he had seen the FanShot by 69Knicks (a hat tip would have been appropriate of course).  We want it on the front page for a few reasons - one of course is that it gets much more visibility. Front page stories also gets indexed by Google for searches.

As we continuing rolling the credits here, how about a shout out to Citizen hans007?  In a FanPost three weeks ago, he floated the idea of using the trade exception to agree either Antonio Daniels or Rasual Butler from the Hornets.  Here's the comment I left on that FanPost at the time:

You’re absolutely on the right track. Cash strapped teams at or near the luxury tax are the perfect bidders for the exception. Daniels would have made all the sense in the world before the Telfair trade. Less now. Butler is a pretty good fit now.

The simple fact is that there may be (a) a clearer picture of needs and (b) other desperate teams out there closer to the trading deadline. So I think a trade like this is a distinct possibility – but I think it will happen later rather than sooner.

So let's not dislocated any shoulders patting ourselves on the back, but I do like it when the level of discussion here at Clips Nation is validated like this.  Well played, sirs (and a couple madames).  The trade happened sooner rather than later, but it was smart then and it's smart now.

Last historical reference - I haven't been through the ClipperBlog archives looking to find it yet (I will soon), but I seem to recall that Kevin had Butler as a target acquisition way back in the 2006 off-season.  I think he's still on vacation, but he has already posted on this trade, probably from a beach somewhere.  He likes Butler. 

On to the trade: it's really, really smart.  Just a solid all around move.  We've been discussing the entire off-season that the Clippers' biggest need was someone capable of playing the two and the three.  Is Rasual Butler a consummate glue guy?  No - but he's a solid player (who happens to have killed the Clippers on several occasions, a pattern to this summer's moves).  He's not a lock down defender - but he's very solid.  When the Hornets play the Lakers, it's Butler who draws the assignment against Kobe, and he works hard and makes his man earn his points.  Bear in mind that with Eric Gordon undersized at the two, the Kobes of the NBA were going to be the toughest assignments for EJ.  Of course, the Lakers will have Artest at the three, so there's really no bargains in that lineup, but in a strange way, I could see Butler on Kobe and EJ (with his strength) on Ron-Ron.  At any rate, Butler is a guy who defends either wing position relatively well and shoots with range.  Is he the perfect acquistion?  Well, considering what the team gave up, and considering that Butler is in the final year of his contract, it's pretty hard to imagine a much better one.  He's not Shane Battier, but LA wasn't going to get Battier for nothing.

You may be wondering if Butler truly was acquired for nothing.  Well, the trade was Butler AND cash for a conditional 2nd round pick in 2016.  We've become pretty famililar with these conditional second round picks around here of course - Marcus Camby, Hassan Adams, Cheikh Samb and Alex Acker all involved them, if I recall correctly.  The bottom line is that the conditions are likely such that the Clippers will never give up a thing - top 55 protected, or some such.  So if the Clippers actually lose any of these picks, it means they finished the season with one of the best records in the NBA - so it's a good problem to have.  There's nothing in the release that says what the conditions are, but the fact that the Hornets actually had to pay out cash to get the deal done tells you all you have to know.  The Clippers gave up nothing - the Hornets are over the cap and wanted Butler's $3.9M salary off their books.  It saves them close to $8M when you include the dollar for dollar tax, so they were willing to throw a little cash Sterling's way, and will get nothing in return.

And since I love the esoterica of this stuff, let's look at why the conditional pick is 2016.  Well, even though all these conditional Clipper picks are like never going to be lost, you still can't trade them twice.  (That actually sounds like the plot of a Broadway musical.)  So they all just keep moving further and further into the future.  If the Clippers continue to be active in these types of moves, using the rest of their trade exception to help other teams clean up their books, we might expect to see conditional picks in 2017 and 2018 being dealt before the deadline.  I don't know if there's any restriction on the time horizon for draft pick trades - if there is, the Clippers will likely be testing it soon.

Butler's $3.9+M salary comes out of the Clippers $7.3M trade exception from the Zach Randolph for Quentin Richardson deal.  So as someone pointed out in the comments of the first thread, in a very real sense you can now add Rasual Butler to the list of assets the Clippers have now acquired for Tim Thomas and Cat Mobley - Mardy Collins, Sebastian Telfair, Craig Smith, Mark Madsen, Butler - and they still have about $3.4M to use from the exception.  And all of those guys except Telfair can be off the books before next season's free agency market.  Not too mention that their expiring deals could be used along with those of Marcus Camby and Ricky Davis to match any salary in the league.  It's hard to imagine, but the Clipper's financial flexibility seems to get better with each move they make.  Call MDsr butter because he's on a roll.

That additional $3.4M exception is ideal for another trade exactly like this one - a decent player from a team in luxury tax land.  And by the way, with the salary cap going down, there are a lot of those.  Maybe the Lakers will settle on either Shannon Brown or Jordan Farmar as Fisher's backup before February and want to rid themselves of the odd man out's guaranteed salary (and tax bill).  Or maybe it's JJ Redick in Orlando.  Or even the carcass of Michael Finley and cash and the rights to Tiago Splitter from the Spurs.  The bottom line is, it remains a very valuable bargaining chip.

And as was pointed out in the comments, this doesn't really impact the Clippers pursuit of Ramon Sessions.  It pretty much takes the Sign and Trade scenario off the table, but as we've stated many times, that was always a red herring.  The Clippers have the full mid level exception to offer Sessions, and Sessions cannot sign for more than the MLE as an 'Arenas Rule' free agent.  Since neither Sessions nor the Clippers had much incentive (really none) to participate in an S&T, it was never a realistic option.  Happily, that uninformed talk can stop now.

Last thought for now: is Rasual Butler a viable option as the starting three freeing Al Thornton to move to the bench scorer role?  In a word, yes.  This is a guy who has started 183 games in his career, and started 74 games for a 49 win team last season.  While it's true that the wings were the weak link on that Hornets team last season, you can't take away the fact that he played 2600 minutes (third most) on a playoff team.  It remains to be seen how such a move might be handled by Thornton - I would argue that it's not a demotion so much as a better utilization of his skill set.  It makes little sense for a high volume scorer of Thornton's ability to be the fourth or fifth option (behind Gordon, Baron, Griffin and Kaman) among the starters.  Butler, spreading the floor with his three point range, is a better fit there, not to mention a better defender against most starting NBA threes.  But Thornton could be a terror against most second units, and could carry the scoring load as the main option when the reserves enter the game.  Obviously that was the idea behind the Maggette/Ross experiment a few years back, but there are at least three key differences as Citizen Zhiv has already pointed out: Butler is better than Ross, Thornton is not (yet) the scorer Maggette was, and that Clippers team was in desperate need of more scoring.  We haven't seen this team on the floor yet, so the thinking here could be completely wrong, but on paper I like the idea of Thornton as the Microwave - the guy who comes in and heats up in a hurry.