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The Houston Rockets intend to pursue a sign-and-trade scenario centered on Philadelphia 76ers free agent wing Jimmy Butler, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.
Brian T. Smith of the Houston Chronicle reported of the Rockets’ interest in pairing Butler with James Harden and Chris Paul a couple weeks ago.
But reaching a deal won’t be easy.
“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 the Sixers into a trade,” Wojnarowski wrote.
The Rockets would likely send out guard Eric Gordon and center Clint Capela to work a deal for Butler, with a third team involved to complete a suitable package for the Sixers, Wojnarowski suggested.
Butler, 29, averaged 18.2 points and 5.3 rebounds in 55 games with the Sixers during the regular season. The Sixers lost to the eventual champion Toronto Raptors in seven games in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
Butler has also been linked to the Los Angeles Lakers, Los Angeles Clippers and Brooklyn Nets. Also, a return to the Sixers is not out of the question as they are expected to offer him a max-level contract.
“Knock on wood, I will get a max contract no matter where I go,” Butler said in May. “You always want to be able to win. I think that’s key, for sure. You’re looking at coaches, you’re looking at the city. There’s a lot that goes into it.”
Rockets general manager Daryl Morey has been making overtures for Butler since the start of the season, when Butler was still with the Minnesota Timberwolves. At the time, it was reported the Rockets offered four first-round picks and several players for Butler.
Along with Butler, the Sixers could lose starters Tobias Harris and J.J. Redick, both of whom are also unrestricted free agents.
“If the Sixers were to lose Butler in free agency — and were in position to keep Harris and Redick — it is possible that the Sixers could simply want the payroll flexibility and dismiss the potential idea of a sign-and-trade scenario for Butler,” Wojnarowski reported.
The NBA free agency period begins Sunday at 6 p.m. EST.