The announcement hasn't been made yet, but sources say Rasual Butler will soon be on his way to the LAC. The return is a future second round draft pick, though no year has yet been specified. The Hornets did trade away their 2010 second round pick in the Marcus Thornton deal, so that may indeed be the return.
I don't think this deal should elicit too much surprise. The Hornets entered the summer and 2009-2010, seeking to move at least a couple of the following five: Tyson Chandler, Peja Stojakovic, Rasual Butler, Antonio Daniels, and Morris Peterson. Chandler has now been traded, and moving Stojakovic is virtually impossible, as is moving Morris Peterson. I anticipated Bower trading Daniels and Butler in a package (~9 million in expirings) to maximize return, but this alternative was predictable.
The timing probably played a huge role in preventing the pair from being moved together. The Hornets ostensibly must wait at least a month or two to confirm Darren Collison's abilities at the NBA level. Daniels remains vital insurance as Chris Paul's backup until then. Rasual Butler, on the other hand, was immediately expendable because Morris Peterson performed at a very similar level for an entire year and knows the system. Staying on the subject of MoPete... while the majority of media outlets are reporting this as "Hornets dump starter," it is surely a calculated gamble due to Mo's presence.
Of course, that's not to say Butler is value-less. The Clippers are getting a good role player, one that truly reinvented himself this past season. We did an analysis of his value in March, coming to this conclusion: "Rasual Butler is by no means a "great" NBA shooting guard. In fact, virtually all measures indicate that he's in the bottom 50% of starting SG's. But relative to his specific role, he's the second most efficient SG in the NBA behind Utah's Ronnie Brewer." Butler meshed perfectly with the Hornets because of his willingness to do exactly what the team needed- space the floor, shoot threes, and play man defense on some of the superior offensive talents of the league. He essentially out-Mo-Pete'd the 2008 MoPete, something very few of us expected. As much as we've bemoaned the lack of a creative wing option, Butler did provide great value. It remains to be seen whether the LAC will install him in a similar role, but if they do, this could be a solid trade for them.
That this move was financially motivated goes without saying. Even if Mo was already being moved back into a starting role, the Hornets could easily have used the depth Sool brings. But it wasn't to be. As Hornets247 has already astutely noted, the deal saves George Shinn around 7.9 million dollars (3.94 million salary plus the dollar for dollar luxury tax).
Some quick math, just so you can see it visually.
Hornets' Total Payroll, Pre-Butler Trade: 77.662 Million
Luxury Tax Threshold: 69.92 Million
Hornets' Total Payroll, Post-Butler Trade: 73.717 Million
Hornets Exceed the Luxury By: 3.797 Million
Antonio Daniels Makes: 6.60 Million
So the writing is definitely on the wall for AD. I know many have suspected Hilton's on the way out. But to me, moving Hilton makes little sense. He's set to earn 2.8 million this year, not enough to get us under the luxury. By keeping him on the roster, the Hornets don't need to go out and spend more for another big. We will probably see Hilton for one final year.