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Friday, February 5, 2010
Is Caron Butler best Mavs can do?

By Tim MacMahon

DALLAS -- Would acquiring Caron Butler makes the Dallas Mavericks much better?

That's a subject being discussed by the Mavs brass as they engage in talks with the Washington Wizards.

ESPN.com's Marc Stein lays out the framework of the potential deal in the Weekend Dime: Josh Howard and another player (such as James Singleton or Quinton Ross) for Butler and DeShawn Stevenson.

It'd pain Mark Cuban to take Stevenson, a player who probably wouldn't crack the Mavs' rotation but would be a fool not to exercise his player option for more than $4 million next season. And the Mavs' decision-makers have mixed feelings about Butler, who didn't help matters by breaking a play with the game on the line in Washington's recent loss to Dallas.

In many regards, Butler is a lot like Howard without the relatively recent off-court drama. They're both 29-year-old small forwards with durability issues whose offensive numbers this season are way down from their career norm.

Butler is a much better rebounder than Howard, but he'd likely have the same problems fitting in the Mavs' mix with Shawn Marion entrenched as the starting 3.

Then again, maybe Butler would benefit from a fresh start after escaping the insanity in Washington.

If Butler doesn't work out, he'd at least be a decent sign-and-trade chip for the Mavs. He is due $10.8 million next season, the last year of his contract. (Howard's contract status -- team option for $11.8 million next season -- is one argument for keeping him because of his value in potential sign-and-trade deals.)

A Howard/Butler deal, with other pieces thrown in, won't make the Mavs any worse. But is it the best the Mavs can do? And is it worth the cost to Cuban?

The Mavs brass has less than two weeks to answer those questions.