Since losing Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah a Moute in the recent free agency, the Houston Rockets have been active on the market, looking to fill the spot they left in the wing. Though they succeeded to acquire Carmelo Anthony, the Rockets are still hoping to land a defensive-minded player. Anthony may give the Rockets a reliable scoring option next to James Harden and Chris Paul, but he can’t replicate Ariza’s performance on the defensive end of the floor.
As of now, one of the Rockets’ top targets on the trade market is Jimmy Butler of the Minnesota Timberwolves. After a dispute with his young teammates Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins, the 29-year-old small forward demanded a trade from the Timberwolves. Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN revealed that the Rockets are “aggressive” in trading for Butler days before the 2018-19 NBA season officially starts.
“Houston has also been aggressive in trading for Butler, sources said. Like Miami, Houston doesn’t have the salary-cap space to sign Butler in the summer and needs to acquire him now to obtain his Bird Rights to retain him on a new deal in July. So far, Minnesota has allowed Butler to stay away in the preseason, presumably as the team works to find a trade for him. As the Wolves traveled out West last week, Butler has been working out at the team’s facility and has been in regular contact with teammates.”
Despite their new acquisitions this summer, most people still don’t see the Rockets being a better team than they were last season. Adding a player of Jimmy Butler’s caliber is a must for the Rockets, especially now that the reigning NBA champions, Golden State Warriors, just got stronger after signing All-Star center DeMarcus Cousins in the recent free agency. The potential arrival of Butler in Houston will undeniably increase their chance of fully dominating the deep Western Conference and win the NBA championship title in the upcoming 2018-19 NBA season.
Butler will boost the Rockets’ performance on both ends of the floor. In 59 games he played with the Timberwolves last season, the All-Star forward averaged 22.2 points, 5.3 rebounds, 4.9 assists, and 2.0 steals on 47.4 percent shooting from the field and 35.0 percent from beyond the arc.
As Woj noted, acquiring Jimmy Butler now is the only way the Rockets can give him a decent contract in the 2019 NBA free agency. However, it remains questionable if the Rockets have enough trade assets that can convince the Timberwolves to make a deal. The best asset they could send to Minnesota is Eric Gordon, but it is highly likely that the Rockets still need to add young players and future draft picks in the potential trade.