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.

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Okur re-ups

The Utah Jazz have locked up at least one of their big men.

The Utah Jazz and center Mehmet Okur have agreed in principle to a two-year contract extension worth just under $21 million, according to NBA front-office sources.

Okur could have been a free agent this summer but elected on June 30 to complete the final season on his current contract with the Jazz at $9 million.

Sources told ESPN.com that Okur and the Jazz have quickly reached terms to extend the contract by two more seasons at $20.8 million starting in 2010-11.

I pegged Okur’s value at about $8-$9 million per season, but like most of my estimates, I bought into the idea that teams were going to be more frugal this offseason. Okur is a 6’11” face up center who averaged 17.0 points and 7.7 rebounds this season. He also has terrific range for a big man, nailing almost 45% of his three point attempts. He’s not a factor on help defense, but with his girth he’s pretty good one-on-one in the post.

Paul Millsap is a restricted free agent, but hasn’t yet signed an offer sheet with another team. Carlos Boozer elected to play one more year in Utah, but there is talk that he may be headed to Chicago as part of a three-team trade involving Kirk Hinrich and Tyrus Thomas. If Utah pulls the trigger, they’d be building around a core of Deron Williams, Ronnie Brewer, Thomas, Millsap and Okur. It doesn’t make much sense to keep both Boozer and Millsap around, as they are very similar players. It seems the Jazz feel that Millsap is the better value, but would like to get something in return for Boozer. Thomas wouldn’t represent equal value, but it’s tough to get equal value these days.

Boozer headed to Chicago?

There is a possible three-team trade brewing…

Sources stressed to ESPN.com that no deal was imminent Thursday and that both Portland and Utah are still evaluating multiple trade scenarios. But two sources with knowledge of the three-team proposal confirmed that there have been substantive talks regarding a trade that would land Boozer in Chicago, Hinrich in Portland and Tyrus Thomas in Utah.

A deal featuring those main components would deliver the elite low-post scorer that the Bulls have been chasing for years in Boozer and furnish Portland with a lead guard in Hinrich that the Blazers are known to rate highly as a potential backcourt mate for Brandon Roy. It’s possible that other players would be added to balance out the transaction from a salary-cap perspective if the three teams elect to take these talks further.

It’s not clear whom the Blazers would have to give up to land Hinrich, but they have cap space so they have some flexibility with regard to how the salaries match up. For the Bulls, this looks like a decent deal depending on whether or not anyone comes over with Boozer. Hinrich and Thomas for Boozer sounds about right.

The Jazz would like to move Boozer, but want to get something in return, and in this case that’s the up-and-coming Thomas. He’s more of a face up forward, so his game should compliment Paul Millsap’s pretty well.

As for the Blazers, they’ve long been rumored to be interested in Hinrich, who can initiate the offense and is a good enough shooter to create space for Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge. More importantly, he’s a pesky defender that can cover the other team’s best guard, allowing Roy to get a breather on defense. The Blazers need a point but they don’t really want to go too young at the position. They need veteran leadership and Hinrich fits the bill.

Salmons, Hinrich trade talk

In Marc Stein’s latest trade deadline column, he discusses potential new homes for Sacramento’s John Salmons and Chicago’s Kirk Hinrich.

San Antonio, meanwhile, is in the hunt as well, pursuing Salmons — with an offer of Bruce Bowen and Ime Udoka — as a far more affordable trade target for its perimeter rotation than Vince Carter. New Jersey’s Carter has tempted the small-market Spurs for days but can be absorbed by them only in a hugely expensive and complicated deal.

There is another complication for interested parties: Sources revealed Tuesday that Salmons has a 15 percent trade kicker in his contract that would require the team that acquires him to pay him a bonus of nearly $2 million and add that figure to its payroll. Salmons otherwise would rank as one of the league’s better bargains, earning just $5.1 million this season while averaging 18.3 points and shooting 47.2 percent from the field and 41.8 percent on 3-pointers.

Salmons is playing heavy minutes this season and isn’t the same player coming off the bench, so if the Spurs were to acquire him, it would behoove them to insert him in their starting lineup. This might be a tough pill to swallow for a franchise that is all about chemistry and players knowing their role. If the Spurs can find a way to add Salmons without losing Roger Mason or George Hill, it would be a pretty nice move. Salmons can start, but he may not finish if Gregg Popovich goes with Mason and Manu Ginobili in crunch time.

Minnesota, according to NBA front-office sources, has strong interest in Hinrich and is pursuing the 28-year-old to address a void at lead guard that hasn’t been filled by Randy Foye (whose success this season came after a shift to shooting guard) or the undependable Sebastian Telfair.

The Wolves also have two expiring contracts of their own (Jason Collins and Rashad McCants) that they’re prepared to shed.

Wow, it’s interesting sometimes to see how far a guy’s stock has fallen. Kirk Hinrich has a very affordable contract — $26.5 million over the next three seasons — but an injury got him off to a slow start this season and he isn’t shooting the ball particularly well, so the Bulls may be willing to trade him to Minnesota for cap relief. Derrick Rose is the future at point guard and the move would allow them to re-sign Ben Gordon (though that ship has probably already sailed).

Hinrich could provide solid leadership in Minnesota. Prior to this year, he has averaged at least 6.0 assists for five consecutive seasons, and if the T-Wolves feel that Foye is really an off guard, then Hinrich should be a nice complement. With a core of Hinrich, Foye, Al Jefferson and Mike Miller (if Minny keeps him), the Timberwolves could be competitive.

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