First off, let's get some collective bargaining agreement jargon out of the way.
If a Team trades a player and the assignee Team subsequently places the player on waivers, the assignor Team shall not be permitted to sign the player to a new Contract (or claim the player off of waivers) before the earlier of: (i) one (1) year following the date all conditions to the trade were satisfied; or (ii) the July 1 following the last Season of the player’s Player Contract.
This is straight from the NBA's official Collective Bargaining Agreement PDF file, buried all the way on page 210. In this scenario, Detroit would be the assignor team and Milwaukee the assignee team. The official end of the season would be June 30.
The reason this is even a story at all is because it appears pretty likely that Milwaukee will waive Butler (and Shawne Williams) in order to clear up cap space to retain Khris Middleton and chase a free agent big man like Brook Lopez or Tyson Chandler (according to BrewHoop).
Now, the terminology is a little ambiguous here. My interpretation is that, once the end of the season has passed on June 30, and free agency opens on July 1, Caron Butler becomes fair game. However, I'm unsure if the CBA actually means the year after his contract expires, which would be following the 2015-16 season. But, Butler has a team option, so by waiving him (if they do so), then Milwaukee are effectively relinquishing their control over him and making him a free agent now, meaning his contract has ended. Therefore, let's operate under the assumption that we are in play for Butler, and continue as planned.
Note: This wouldn't be the first time the Pistons reacquire a traded player shortly after. Antonio McDyess re-joined the team after being traded to, and waived by, Denver in December 2008. Lindsey Hunter also re-joined the team after being traded to, and waived by, Boston in February 2004.
Currently, the Pistons have Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Spencer Dinwiddie, Andre Drummond, Ersan Ilyasova, Brandon Jennings, Cartier Martin, Jodie Meeks, Quincy Miller and Anthony Tolliver under contract for next season in various capacities. Miller and Tolliver both have unguaranteed contracts, but it's likely Tolliver returns after his play, and we've heard nothing but good things on Miller's offseason progress, bulking up to potentially play the four for Van Gundy. Regardless, that's nine occupied roster spots if they all return. Add in the Nos. 8 and 38 draft picks (if No. 38's signed) and you have 11 spots gone. Let's assume Reggie Jackson is also back, and Monroe is sadly gone. That leaves three vacant spots. I doubt SVG is keen on bringing back John Lucas III, and all indications point to Tayshaun Prince signing with a contender. Joel Anthony could stick around; it appears SVG likes the Canadian big and the feeling is mutual, so for argument's sake let's say he stays.
Now, we have two spots left. I'm not going to do any fancy accounting here, because it's late and I can't be bothered, but in terms of roster makeup, bringing Butler back wouldn't be the worst idea in the world. Judging by the offseason plan projects floating around, many agree that Butler would be a solid player and excellent mentor, but his price was too high at $4.5 million. If he could be talked into signing back at a contract at around $2.5 million for a year, that's pretty good business, especially when you consider the small forward rotation next year.
I think our draft pick will be one of Mario Hezonja or Stanley Johnson (or Justise Winslow if he falls), and it's very likely that any small forward we draft will start on opening night (unless we pull off a miracle free agency signing for a Middleton or Tobias Harris type). Therefore, Butler would be the perfect mentor to have around, as a former All-Star, NBA champion and general leader, he can teach the rookie both the intricacies of small forward play, but also life in the league.
Then again, we could just as easily sign an unrestricted FA small forward like Gerald Green, Danny Green (although I think he's a SG personally) or DeMarre Carroll and have them start, with our rookie as a backup, but Butler could still be a valuable member of the squad.
But going back to the mantra SVG preached last summer upon his arrival, that any player he signs will be primarily to contribute on the court as opposed to off it, means that Butler will still need to be viewed as a viable contributor at this stage of his career. However, for the price tag I envisioned earlier, a veteran presence who can hit shots but only be relied upon for 10-15 minutes a game would be worth that money in my eyes.
To read the NBA's Collective Bargaining Agreement and the brilliance enclosed in it's 582 pages, it can be found here.
Would you have Butler back? Have your say below.