Bulls beat writer shoots down Butler-for-Hinrich rumors

Mike McGraw of the DailyHerald.com doesn’t think the Bulls would trade Kirk Hinrich for Caron Butler.

The only benefit to the Bulls in this one is Hinrich’s deal runs two more years, while Butler is done after next season. Otherwise, it makes no sense for the Bulls and I’m reasonably certain it’s not happening.

Butler has played small forward his whole career, so plugging him in at two guard is a stretch. Then if the Bulls are intent on building a defensive base, which GM Gar Forman has promised several times, they wouldn’t trade one of their best defenders for someone from a team that has consistently refused to play defense over the years.

The biggest drawback is Butler makes about $1.5 million more than Hinrich next season and the Bulls can’t afford to squish their cap space next summer.

Butler is a prototypical small forward, so plugging him in at two guard is indeed a stretch. When I heard the rumors, I thought the Butler move would be a long-term replacement for John Salmons and (possibly) Tyrus Thomas. The Bulls don’t have a low post scorer, so their best bet is to go up-tempo and run Luol Deng at power forward.

McGraw is right about next year’s cap space — a Butler-for-Hinrich swap would cut into their available funds, but if they’re able to move John Salmons, they’ll still be able to sign a big-name free agent next summer. Which would be more appealing for Dwyane Wade: a Rose-Butler-Deng-Noah core or a Rose-Hinrich-Deng-Noah core? McGraw’s assertion that the deal “makes no sense” for the Bulls seems shortsighted. Butler is a two-time All-Star, and that says something.

As for his defense, I don’t think it’s fair to criticize Butler solely on the fact that the Wizards as a team don’t play any defense. Sure, a leader would lead by example, but this is not Butler’s team, it’s Gilbert Arenas’s team. Here is what John Hollinger has to say about Butler on the defensive end:

Defensively, he has great anticipation but isn’t much of a help defender and can lose focus and interest. He seems to do better when he has to guard a big star on the ball than a weak player off it. He has good size, though, so posting him up doesn’t usually net results, and he does rebound well.

Here is another take from DraftExpress:

Defensively, Butler’s size, strength and quickness make him a tough matchup for most small forwards to deal with. He denies dribble penetration very well and uses his body to good effect when trying to disrupt opponent’s drives. He’s active and aggressive with his hand and foot action on nights when he’s feeling challenged, though he isn’t 100 percent consistent with it against every player. Butler rarely gets posted by opposing small forwards and has the strength and aptitude to situationally defend some power forwards, which he does on occasion.

My guess is that if you raise the stakes for Butler (put him on a championship-caliber team), he will show you what he can do on the defensive end.

A potential Rose-Wade-Butler-Deng-Noah lineup would be potent, but it does present a few problems. Rose and Wade are both ball-dominant guards, while Butler and Deng are used to scoring 15-20 points a game. If they pushed the tempo, there would be enough shots to go around, but it might make more sense to find a defensive-minded player who can hit open shots (think Shane Battier) to fill one of the forward positions. Deng could potentially fill that role if an alpha dog like Wade were added to the mix.

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