How Caron Butler Trade Impacts Michael Beasley's Future with Phoenix Suns

Dan Favale@@danfavaleFeatured ColumnistAugust 29, 2013

DENVER, CO - APRIL 17:  Michael Beasley #0 of the Phoenix Suns controls the ball against Evan Fournier #94 of the Denver Nuggets at the Pepsi Center on April 17, 2013 in Denver, Colorado. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Caron Butler was the first to go, now Michael Beasley could be next.

ESPN's Marc Stein reported the Phoenix Suns had traded Butler to the Milwaukee Bucks, a move that had more to do with Beasley than anyone else involved.

Per's Paul Coro, the Suns saved saved more than $5.6 million in cap space by dealing Butler, paving the way for them to part ways with Beasley:

"The Suns gain $5.65 million of cap space for any potential in-season trades but also save that money to make an expected costly waiver of Michael Beasley more palatable. Beasley would be owed $9 million of guaranteed salary."

That extra $5.6-plus million in savings essentially means the Suns can pull together another $3.4 million and wave goodbye to the player they hoped would salvage his career in Phoenix.

One year into The Beas experiment it's become clear this reclamation project isn't one worth continuing for the team. Phoenix is headed in a different direction. A completely different direction. One that doesn't include oft-maligned forwards making headlines for all the wrong reasons.

Wherever it is Suns are headed, they should intend to get there without Beasley.


Why Butler's Departure Means Something

Even to the richest NBA teams $9 million is a lot of coin.

Fiscally responsible franchises know that paying a player to leave is the mark of a bad investment, worse than employing the amnesty clause. And that's what the Suns are doing really—amnestying Beasley, sans the financial incentives that typically come with it.

Prior to the Butler trade Phoenix's payroll sat at roughly $55.5 million. Lining Beasley's wallet with $9 million amounts to over 16 percent of their total salary commitments. Ask the New York Knicks and Los Angeles Lakers if they'd pay one player 16 percent of their payroll to leave and they'll think twice about it too. 

Small-market teams must weight such decisions even more. They're pockets aren't as deep as their big-market foes. So they went out and created even more space, and not because they were bored.

The free-agent well has dried up and no other rumored trades are in the mix. What reason could the Suns possibly have for rocking the boat this late in the offseason? Because Ish Smith is their future?

This was about more than freeing up funds; this was about Beasley.

Butler wasn't some pawn Phoenix didn't value. He projected to be the oldest player (33) on the team. According to Coro, the Suns "hailed him as a veteran influence," suggesting that he was part of their future:

The Suns sounded like a team that planned to keep Butler and nothing since then indicated otherwise. Butler smartly wore an orange tie at his introductory press conference and general manager Ryan McDonough talked about his man crush on him and how Butler was part of the team’s future with Eric Bledsoe. They were acquired in that early July three-team deal that sent Jared Dudley to the Clippers officialy on July 10.

Butler came to Phoenix during the sweltering summer to work out at US Airways Center and was already imparting some leadership upon the young players. Butler was one of five players who wore the new Suns uniforms when they were unveiled two weeks ago.

Posturing is an art in the NBA. Teams lie and/or plans change. Early on, however, it looked like Butler would remain with the Suns. That they valued him for his veteran leadership.

Then plans changed.

Beasley was arrested for marijuana possession. Again.

This came after Beasley was cited for driving with a suspended license, among other things, in late January.

His latest run-in with the law reportedly sent waves through the organization. Arizona Sports' John Gambadoro posited he would be shown the door before long. The problem was they would have to foot a $9 million departure bill, making this an expensive breakup.

Not even three weeks later, the Suns severed ties with a player they, by all appearances, intended on keeping in exchange for some financial flexibility. The kind of flexibility that significantly eases $9 million worth of pain.

You do the math.


Why Beasley Needs to Go

The Suns tried. They really did. But they can't save Beasley. At this point it doesn't seem like anyone can.

Phoenix went to great lengths to accommodate the former No. 2 overall draft pick. Aside from the three-year, $18 million deal the Suns handed him, they hired him a life coach and offered him mentoring and counseling.

And this is how he repays them.

There was writing on the wall before this latest edition of Beasley Gone Wild went down as well. A source told Sports on Earth's Shaun Powell back in December that Beasley had become "toxic."

Then came Beasley's traffic violation in January. Now this. It's time the Suns distanced themselves from this train wreck.

All this trouble isn't worth the continued presence of a lost 24-year-old. For a child who has worn out his welcome with three different teams in five years. For a player who responded to an $18-million deal with a career-low 10.1 points on a career-worst 40.5 percent shooting.

There's simply no upside to keeping Beasley. If the Suns find an unwitting organization willing to take him on then great, trade him. More likely the rest of the league is smart enough to know an expensive headache when they see it, leaving the Suns to waive him instead.

Which they must do soon. Per Gambadoro they have until August 31 to release him, giving them just days to make the move they need to make.

End this, Phoenix. Just end it. Give him the $9 million worth of guaranteed money he's owed. Stretch it over the next five years to soften the blow if need be. Just get him out.

Never before has it been more clear these two sides are traversing completely different paths. With Butler gone and Phoenix preparing to usher in a new era under Jeff Hornacek, Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic, Beasley just isn't a good fit. He's not the foundation the Suns were hoping he'd be.

Removing him from the ranks now spares the team and their fans an abundance of migraines over the next two years while also pinning the Suns deeper in unofficial tank mode. Whether they'll cop to it or not, that's what they're playing for—the draft. Their future. The chance to select Andrew Wiggins. The opportunity to add another potential star.

Once considered a future star himself, Beasley no longer fits that mold. Remaining in Phoenix, even if he improves upon last season's performance, does nothing to help the Suns.

They'll still be left with a contentious child masquerading as a mediocre NBA player who won't ever lead them out of the league's trenches, taking them instead to places they shouldn't ever want to go.



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