Mavs, Wizards agree to Butler-Howard swap

Caron Butler is headed to Dallas, per ESPN…

The teams agreed on the principal pieces Friday: Butler, Haywood and DeShawn Stevenson to Dallas for Josh Howard and Drew Gooden. Mavericks reserves Quinton Ross and James Singleton were added to the deal Saturday and are also Washington-bound, with Dallas due to receive cash considerations in addition to the three players.

I wrote about this deal yesterday.

To me, if the Wizards are rebuilding, why trade Butler for Howard? He’s 29 — the same age as Butler — and hasn’t been the player this year as he has in years past. He has a team option for next season, so presumably they’d let him walk, because if you can’t build around Butler then you certainly can’t build around Howard.

The right way to start a rebuilding process is to get some good young talent or first round draft picks when trading away stars. Otherwise, it’s just a salary dump. This deal might be appealing to the Wizards because they can try to sell their season ticket holders on the fact that, talent-wise, the trade was pretty even. But really, they’re just treading water, if that.

From a talent stanpdoint, this looks like a great trade for the Mavs. Butler is a significant upgrade over Howard, who has struggled this season. Haywood also gives the Mavs a defensive center who can give Dallas some toughness inside now that Erick Dampier is dealing with some soreness in his knee. Butler’s salary for next season ($10.6 M) is pretty reasonable given what he brings to the table.

On the flip side, Wizards’ GM Ernie Grunfeld continues to perplex me. When he was running the Bucks, he was the mastermind behind the disastrous Ray Allen-for-Gary Payton swap, and in the last two years, he signed Gilbert Arenas to an outlandish contract (for a guy coming off of knee surgery) and now, in an effort to “rebuild,” he’s trading away a very good 29-year-old small forward for a decent 29-year-old small forward.

The trade does bring salary cap relief but that’s about it. Butler and Stevenson were due to make $14.6 million combined next season, and the Wizards are potentially going to take on the $1.1 million still owed to Quinton Ross if he exercises his player option for next year. So, by trimming a net of $13.5 million from their 2010-11 payroll, the Wizards will have about $10 million in cap space this summer, assuming they don’t exercise the team option on Howard’s contract.

In other words, this is a salary dump, plain and simple. I’d be shocked if this trade isn’t a precursor to an Antawn Jamison in the next few days. What’s the point of trading Butler if you aren’t going to move Jamison too?

Photo from fOTOGLIF

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