One way or other, Butler in Mavs' plans

Wouldn't it be remarkable if the trade hailed as the best deal in Dallas Mavericks history, as some contended ('Tractor' Traylor for Dirk Nowitzki, hello?) when the mid-February deal went down, netted just DeShawn Stevenson for next season?

It's possible. Center Brendan Haywood, initially perceived as the best center in Mavs history, could be gone. He's a free agent and could leave either on his own or by the Mavs saying thanks, but no thanks after he proved to be a softer-than-expected 7-footer.

Caron Butler is the main man in the trade that sent Josh Howard to Washington. It's Butler who finds himself in a most interesting situation heading into the offseason.

Does he stay?

"I hope so. We'll see what happens," Butler said. "They'll be a lot of decisions that will obviously be made. But, I like Dallas. I'm a Ranger, Texas Ranger."

OK, we didn't follow up on the Ranger thing, but whatever. The Mavs knew when they traded for Butler that 2010-11 is the final year on his contract that pays him $10.8 million, a very attractive contract for a team looking to acquire expiring deals to create financial relief. The Mavs will no doubt try to package Butler's contract in a deal with Erick Dampier's non-guaranteed contract in a sign-and-trade to acquire a superstar. If that were to happen, discussions of best-trade-in-franchise-history are back open for discussion.

But, if that doesn't happen, then what? Butler, who moved from small forward to shooting guard in Dallas, had an interesting couple of months. Upon arrival, he quickly missed a huge game against the Lakers when he came down with a mysterious "reaction to medication." He struggled through a shooting slump and in the playoffs he perturbed coach Rick Carlisle enough for Carlisle to bench him for the entire second half of Game 3.

But, Butler also showed the toughness and scoring prowess he can deliver with a 36-point performance in Game 5 and 25 in Game 6. The 6-foot-7, 228-pounder, who just completed his eighth season, averaged 19.7 points on 43.4 percent shooting, and 5.8 rebounds in the first-round series. He averaged 15.2 points on 43.8 percent shooting and 5.4 rebounds in 27 regular-season games with the Mavs.

"I feel great. I came here and got adjusted rather quickly and was just starting really to hit your stride and start figuring out where your opportunities really was going to come from," Butler said. "Obviously, San Antonio is a great defensive ballclub, they throw a lot of different things at you. It was a tough-fought series, there was a lot of different strategizing, but to make adjustments on the fly and still have success, I did pretty well."

The problem is how does Butler fit next season at a position where the Mavs want Roddy Beaubois to grab a bigger role, possibly even starting, and Jason Terry also remains? Terry's contract makes it difficult to deal him, so Terry will most likely be back, causing a logjam at shooting guard. Of course, if Roddy B breaks free and Butler remains on the roster, since he's a more natural small forward, Butler could easily push Shawn Marion, a 12-point-a-game scorer, to the bench.

Butler said he was just beginning to find his stride.

"You're learning your role, when to attack, when not to attack, getting accustomed to the guys, now getting a better feel of the guys and hopefully having a summer with some of the guys and starting to workout early and getting a training camp under our belt," Butler said. "Hopefully, we can come back next year and really hit the ground running."

Come back? We'll see.