2019 NBA free agency rumors: Rockets reportedly plan to pursue sign-and-trade with Sixers for Jimmy Butler


Well, at least one team is trying to throw a wrench in the Sixers’ attempt to #RunItBack.

The Rockets plan to pursue Jimmy Butler in a sign-and-trade with the Sixers when the NBA’s legal tampering period begins Sunday, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

There’s a lot to untangle here. Woj is not saying that the feeling is mutual or that the Sixers would be inclined to go through with the deal. He said “if” Butler wants to go to Houston and “if” he can talk the Sixers into it. That’s two pretty big “ifs.” Woj also said the Sixers plan to “be aggressive” in re-signing the four-time All-Star.

From the Sixers’ perspective, it makes little sense to do a sign-and-trade. In order to make the money work, you’d have to take back the contracts of Eric Gordon and Clint Capela. Gordon is not the same player he once was — which is why the Rockets would be willing to move him — and Capela would be a backup center making an average annual salary of $18 million. You could theoretically flip Capela, but that’s a dicey option. The Sixers would be in a better spot by just allowing Butler to walk and use the cap space to re-sign Tobias Harris and JJ Redick and perhaps another free agent.

For Butler, there is an appeal in wanting to play for the team he grew up watching and alongside two future HOFers. But the Sixers just seem like a better fit on the court and money wise. The situation on the Rockets seems combustible. Chris Paul has reportedly asked to be dealt and it’d be interesting to see how Butler would react to James Harden’s play on defense. The Sixers can also offer Butler a five-year, $190 max deal because they own his Bird rights. It’s unclear how much Houston can actually give Butler with their murky cap situation — though GM Daryl Morey has navigated such situations before.

Butler has said repeatedly that his decision in free agency won’t be based on money.

“You always want to be able to win, I think that’s key for sure,” Butler said during his exit interview. “You’re looking at coaches, you’re looking at the city. There’s a lot that goes into it. For me, as long as I got my people with me, they’re happy, they’re smiling and we’re waking up knowing were getting to work in an environment where we’re having fun … we get it, we understand.”

Does that sound more like Houston or Philadelphia? Buckle up, Sixers fans. This is just the beginning.

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