NBA Sunday: Bulls To Meet With Caron Butler
Caron Butler and the Bulls
Starting early Monday morning, teams can finally begin meeting with free agents en route to placing a whole slew of players onto new teams in what promises to be one of the most insane free agency periods of all time.
The Chicago Bulls will reportedly start their own slew of discussions with former Dallas Maverick Caron Butler, who incidentally has been working out in Chicago. The interest from Butler’s side has been pretty well publicized over the course of the last week, capped by Butler saying, “I hope I don’t have to leave,” but Chicago Tribune columnist K.C. Johnson’s report that the Bulls could potentially share that interest means this is a match that just might work.
Obviously, what the Bulls need more than anything is help at the shooting guard position, and Butler is technically a small forward, but that doesn’t mean he would be a poor option for Chicago to spend its full $5 million MLE. Butler has played some shooting guard in the past, and at the very least he’d be a guy that could help share the scoring load with Derrick Rose. Luol Deng was a 40+ mpg player at the three last year, so having a veteran to either spell him or supplement him wouldn’t be a horrible thing. Of course, the idea would probably be to have both guys on the floor together more often than not, and rookie Jimmy Butler can help out with that rotation, as well.
Caron only played in 29 games last season because of injuries, but the 15 ppg he scored in that time is exactly the sort of thing Chicago needs. Butler is actually a 16.6 ppg career scorer, but injuries will always be a concern with him. He normally misses between 8 and 15 games per season (he’s never played all 82, or even 80, for that matter), but the Bulls are deep enough to weather that.
Keep in mind, too, that Butler won’t be the only player Chicago interviews over the course of the coming week. They have reportedly reached out to Jamal Crawford’s camp already, and like everyone else with money to spend, they’re interested in Denver restricted free agent Arron Afflalo, as well. Jason Richardson, perhaps the best all-around veteran shooting guard in the free agency pool, should get a phone call, too.
The Bulls only have that $5 million MLE to offer, which means Crawford and Richardson may pass for bigger paychecks somewhere else, and it would be a shock if Denver didn’t match any offer sheet for Afflalo. That means someone like Butler, who still is just 29 years old and has some serious playoff experience, might be Chicago’s best hope for offensive help. It’s not the upgrade at shooting guard most (okay, all) Bulls fans were hoping for, but he could potentially make a huge difference on a team that needs another scorer.
Would Butler be enough to push Chicago over the championship hump? Perhaps not, and if that’s what the Bulls decide, they’ll have to go in a different direction that does.
The San Antonio Spurs and L.A. Clippers also have serious interest in Butler, though the Spurs wouldn’t sign him unless they first used their amnesty provision on Richard Jefferson. The HEAT, Nets, Pistons, and Bucks are reportedly also hoping to interview Butler, as well.
Could Valanciunas Play This Year After All?
When the Toronto Raptors made Jonas Valanciunas the #5 pick in the draft, they did so knowing that it would be at least a full year before he officially reported to the team, but that may no longer be the case.
According to ESPN.com’s Chad Ford, despite the fact that Valanciunas’s team, Lietuvos Rytas, didn’t put an NBA buyout in his contract for this season, they may be willing to let him move to his new team, after all.
What’s changed in only five months? Apparently a lot for Lietuvos Rytas, who missed qualifying for the Euroleague. That means lost sponsors, which means lost cash, which means it might be smarter financially for the team to work a buyout with Valanciunas and the Raptors than to hoard him for another season.
Assuming this does happen, Raptors fans should temper their immediate expectations, though their long-term expectations should be through the roof. The kid is only 19 years old, and international stars—especially the young ones—always take a year or three to adjust to the NBA. However, Valanciunas absolutely dominated Under-19 international play this summer, putting up 23 points, 13.8 rebounds, and 3.2 blocks per game. And, oh yeah, Lithuania ended up with the gold medal.
This young man is for real, and despite the fact that he dropped to #5 in last June’s draft, most organizations in the lottery had a sense that he could end up the best player of the lot when careers are all said and done. The contract situation is what scared teams off.
Cleveland, for example, opted to take Tristan Thompson with the fourth overall pick in the draft rather Valanciunas, ostensibly because Thompson was a “better fit,” but most NBA journalists were saying what a mistake that was even before news came out that he could play in the League this year. If he comes over and plays in the lockout-shortened season, the Cavs could seriously regret their decision.
Remember, Kyrie Irving was the quintessential pick-and-roll point guard, while Valanciunas was supposed to be the perfect pick-and-roll big man to complement Irving. Pairing Thompson with Irving was more about getting a guy who could definitely play immediately, grow with Irving from the very beginning of both players’ careers, and foster a preexisting friendship and chemistry between two rookies instead of forcing one between two kids who’d never met. It makes sense on a certain level, but the basest level—talent—puts Valanciunas ahead in this thing. That’s where this could really end up painful for Cleveland (like they need that) and quite euphoric for Toronto.
Should this work out for the Raptors, they could end up with the steal of the draft. They might still, even it takes another year for Valanciunas to make it to Toronto.
Free Agency Notes
With teams expected to start talking to players on Monday, there is plenty of chatter going around about who wants to meet with whom, and what players might end up traded. Here are a few of the most recent tidbits along those lines:
- Dwight Howard and his camp are not going the direction that Chris Paul and his camp went earlier in the week with the trade demand to New York. Instead, reports are indicating that Howard’s preference is to stay in Orlando and hopes that Magic GM Otis Smith can pull off a godfather deal to bring in another superstar. It would likely only be after that didn’t appear to be happening that he would push hard for a trade out of Orlando.
- The Chris-Paul-to-Golden-State trade rumors have died down considerably, but according to SI.com, should they ever resume, Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson are the pieces New Orleans would be most interested in.
- Memphis still swears they aren’t trading Rudy Gay, and at this point it’s probably time to believe them. Whether they can afford to retain Marc Gasol or not is another story, regardless of how many times they say that’s their plan. The money simply may not be there.
- According to Yahoo! Sports, Miami wants to bring in Shane Battier. Battier, for his part, has no idea where he wants to end up, and in recent weeks has actually solicited his Twitter followers to make their cases for why he should come to one team or another. He seemed to have fun with the process, and a lot of fans from all over the league showed the man quite a bit of a love. Many of the tweets came out of Florida, whatever that’s worth. Should Battier-to-Miami not work out, don’t be surprised to see them make a run at Grant Hill.
Of course, we’ll have plenty more over the course of the coming weeks, which promise to be absolutely insane. Stay tuned into HOOPSWORLD for the latest!