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Report: Suns active as Jimmy Butler, Paul George hit trade block

Indiana Pacers forward Paul George reacts as the Pacers lost the lead to the Cleveland Cavaliers during the second half of Game 3 of a first-round NBA basketball playoff series, Thursday, April 20, 2017, in Indianapolis. The Cavaliers defeated the Pacers 119-114. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

Would it behoove the Phoenix Suns to help out the division rival Los Angeles Lakers land All-Star Pacers forward Paul George? Should they aide a trade that would send the Bulls’ Jimmy Butler to a contender?

The answer could be “yes.”

When The Vertical’s report surfaced Sunday that George told the Indiana Pacers he would leave the team in free agency with Los Angeles as his preferred destination, it was no surprise that the Suns were thrown out as a potential trade partner in a theoretical Pacers-Lakers deal.

On Monday, the Suns were reportedly involved in chatter when Chicago’s Jimmy Butler’s name began circulating among trade rumors.

While it isn’t clear whether either George or Butler are targets for Phoenix, the Suns are certainly in the conversation as a third team to get a deal done.

The Chicago Tribune’s K.C. Johnson connected the Suns to the report from The Vertical’s Adrian Wojnarowski that Butler is drawing interest from Minnesota.

ESPN’s Marc Stein added the Cavaliers have discussed a Butler deal with the Bulls, and both Johnson and CSN Chicago’s Vincent Goodwill linked the Suns to that discussion as well.

Two NBA sources told Johnson that the Cavaliers approached the Suns with hopes of landing Butler in a three-team deal.

But Cavaliers GM David Griffin parting ways with Cleveland on Monday at such an important time adds another layer to potential trade rumors as the Cavs determine the next move following an NBA Finals loss to the Warriors.

As reported by ESPN, Griffin was working on a Kevin Love trade that involved the Suns when it all went down.

The Cavs were trying to work a three-team trade using Kevin Love and the No. 4 pick belonging to the Phoenix Suns, sources said. When the talks leaked in the media, some wondered if Griffin was attempting to create a buzz. Gilbert is often influenced by media reports and here his general manager was out trying to be aggressive as the owner indicated he wanted. Late into the afternoon, Griffin was still on the phone trying to put something together.

All the noise could be nothing more than evidence the Suns are working the phone lines.

It’s maybe just another reminder that Phoenix is well situated to get involved in multi-team deals.

While the Butler reports are fresher, the news of George’s admission to the Pacers’ brass severely hurts his trade value to any team other than the Lakers. And since the Lakers believe they can sign George as a free agent, there is little reason for them to unload picks or prospects just to land the All-Star for this season.

In the past 24 hours, (Pacers GM Kevin) Pritchard has become more aggressive in pursuing trades for George, league sources told The Vertical. Pritchard has yet to show an inclination to engage the Lakers, but has discussed deals with several teams – including Cleveland – in which the expectation of teams would be that George is a “one-year rental.” It is unclear how robust those offers to Indiana will ultimately be, given that teams believe he will sign with the Lakers next summer.

ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne reports the Lakers “do not currently intend to part with any of their young assets in a trade with the Pacers.”

Still, if the Suns can attempt to put together a deal that will help Los Angeles do more than just land George — as in, take even more salaries off the Lakers’ books — perhaps the Magic Johnson-led front office would be compelled to make a move.

The Suns have the various forms of assets to help a deal get done.

They have a large contract of Brandon Knight that, while long in length, might be needed to move salaries if the other two teams want to do more than swap George for young prospects straight up. The other Suns veterans, of course, fall into the same category as Knight, but trading the likes of Eric Bledsoe or Tyson Chandler would indicate even more commitment to a youth movement.

In any case, the Lakers would need to ship out enough salary to match George’s contract set to pay him $19.5 million in 2017-18. Los Angeles will be required dump a salary of Luol Deng or Timofey Mozgov just to take on George’s deal.

Could they move both of the veterans?

That’s where more moving parts (salaries) might be necessary for the Suns to provide.

While a Lakers-Pacers deal doesn’t likely at this point, it’s certain that the Pacers will be hoping to make a George trade in any way possible to salvage some return from his departure.

That any other team outside Los Angeles would make a trade for a likely rental remains a longshot at best.

For the Suns, there’s no harm mulling potential opportunities regarding George or Butler, longshot or not.

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