When the Minnesota Timberwolves made Jimmy Butler available on the trading block earlier in the 2018-19 NBA season, the Houston Rockets were one of the NBA teams who expressed strong interest in adding the All-Star forward to their roster. The Rockets had expressed their willingness to give up multiple first-round picks for Butler but it was not enough to secure a deal with the Timberwolves. The Timberwolves ended up trading Butler to the Philadelphia 76ers in exchange for Robert Covington, Dario Saric, Jerryd Bayless, and a future second-round pick.
Despite failing to acquire Jimmy Butler during the 2018-19 NBA season, the Rockets are still planning to target him in the 2019 NBA offseason where he is set to become an unrestricted free agent. However, with the Rockets already buried deep into the luxury tax hell, they will be needing to make multiple roster moves to bring Butler to Houston. According to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN, the Rockets could explore a sign-and-trade deal involving Butler with the Sixers once the 2019 NBA free agency officially begins.
“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.”
Houston's priority for free agency, league sources tell ESPN: Pursue a sign-and-trade for Sixers All-Star Jimmy Butler. https://t.co/Bsk6g2YhfW— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) June 25, 2019
When the Rockets suffered another massive defeat from the hands of the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference Semifinals, rumors and speculations started to circulate that the Rockets are planning to make a huge roster overhaul this summer. With their goal to surround James Harden with a better supporting cast, the Rockets have made all their players and future draft picks available in trade discussions. The Rockets are reportedly willing to part ways with the likes of Chris Paul if the right deal comes along.
However, in the past weeks, the Rockets have strongly denied the reports that they are planning to trade Chris Paul. Instead of breaking their explosive backcourt duo of Paul and James Harden, Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey revealed that they want to add a third superstar this summer.
Targeting Jimmy Butler makes a lot of sense for the Rockets. Acquiring Butler will give the Rockets a defensive-minded wingman they have been missing since they lost Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah a Moute last summer. Also, Butler will be a reliable third scoring option next to Chris Paul and James Harden.
As Wojnarowski noted, to acquire Jimmy Butler via a sign-and-trade deal, the Rockets and the Sixers will be needing a third team to facilitate the trade. To make the deal work financially, the Rockets should include at least two of Clint Capela, Eric Gordon, and P.J. Tucker in the trade package.
The deal will not only be beneficial for the Rockets but also for the Sixers. Agreeing to a sign-and-trade deal will enable the Sixers to acquire valuable trade assets instead of losing Jimmy Butler without getting anything in return. Also, the departure of Butler will give the Sixers the salary cap flexibility to bring back both Tobias Harris and J.J. Redick in the 2019 NBA free agency.