Expected to be one of the busier teams this offseason, the Houston Rockets have reportedly identified their primary target this summer in free agent wing Jimmy Butler. After declining his player option ahead of next season, Butler is now slated to hit unrestricted free agency, but it’d take some maneuvering for Houston to be able to bring him aboard.
According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the Rockets are pursuing a sign-and-trade for Butler since they lack the available cap space to sign him outright in free agency.
Once free agency starts on Sunday, the Rockets are planning to recruit Jimmy Butler to push the Philadelphia 76ers for a sign-and-trade deal that would allow the All-Star forward to join James Harden and Chris Paul in Houston, league sources tell ESPN.
The Rockets don’t have the salary-cap space to sign Butler, so they’d need the threat of the Sixers losing him for nothing to a team with the available room to motivate Philadelphia into a trade. The Rockets also would potentially need to make this a multiteam deal to satisfy the rules of base year compensation that would cover Butler’s outgoing salary.
The Sixers plan to be aggressive in signing Butler to a new deal, sources said, and they could blunt a Rockets push with a full five-year, $190 million offer at the start of free agency on Sunday night.
Desperate for an edge after coming up short the past two seasons, adding Jimmy Butler would be a huge boost for the Houston Rockets. Butler is one of the NBA’s premier two-way players and his dominance on both ends of the floor would provide Houston an element they haven’t had in years past.
However, the fit could be another story, as a trio of Butler, Harden and Chris Paul doesn’t seem likely to flourish on paper. All three operate best with the ball in their hands, and we’ve already seen rumors about Paul’s discontent towards Harden’s isolation-heavy playstyle. Adding another scorer and ball-stopper in Butler has the potential to derail the offense entirely.
Still, Butler is one of the premier names becoming available this summer so it behooves Houston to at least explore possible sign-and-trade scenarios. Ideally, Houston would be able to swap Chris Paul for Butler, but even calling that scenario a longshot is an understatement at this point. Butler could end up returning to Philly ultimately, but regardless he will certainly be one of the top names to monitor this offseason.