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August 12, 2009

Hornets Send Butler to Clippers

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kevin Pelton @ 3:31 pm

A quiet day in the NBA was interrupted by the New Orleans Hornets sending swingman Rasual Butler and cash to the Clippers for a conditional 2016 second-round pick (or, in other words, nothing), a deal reported by ESPN.com’s Marc Stein this morning and subsequently announced by the Clippers.

For the Hornets, this is a pure salary dump, which is odd in that Butler was such a key player for New Orleans last season, when he started 73 games and averaged a hair under 32 minutes a night. He saw more playing time per game than three All-Stars (Kevin Garnett, Jameer Nelson and Shaquille O’Neal).

Yet Butler remained expendable because the Hornets have so many wing players. Morris Peterson started at the position in 2007-08 before losing his job to Butler during last year’s injury-plagued campaign. SCHOENE projects him to bounce back and be more valuable than Butler next season. To the extent Butler’s size and ability to defend small forwards differentiates him from Peterson, well, James Posey brings that too. Then there are the kids, third-year forward Julian Wright and rookie second-round pick Marcus Thornton, who give New Orleans a different look on the perimeter with their scoring punch. Given all of those options, it seems unlikely the Hornets will miss Butler too much despite his ability to sop up minutes last season. When you consider New Orleans saved nearly $8 million in the deal (both Butler’s salary plus the matching luxury-tax payout), this seems like a no-brainer for the Hornets perspective.

On the other side, the Clippers have no monetary concerns for this season but wouldn’t want to cut into their future cap space for a player of Butler’s ilk. Dealing for a player in the final year of his contract accomplishes just that. Butler is surely an upgrade on the journeymen who backed up on the wing for L.A. last season (Mardy Collins, Ricky Davis and Fred Jones). The question is whether Butler could be something more for the Clippers. The brilliant Kevin Arnovitz already has a post up at Clipperblog musing as to whether Butler’s skillset might not be a better fit in the team’s starting lineup than Al Thornton‘s, particularly in terms of complementing Eric Gordon on the wing.

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