The Houston Rockets don’t have the available cap space to pursue unrestricted free agent Jimmy Butler but that doesn’t mean they aren’t still interested in his services. Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN writes that the Rockets very much plan to recruit Butler and intend to push the Philadelphia 76ers for a sign-and-trade agreement.
Although Philly can technically offer Butler considerably more money than he could attract with a new team, there’s no guarantee that the 29-year-old wishes to remain with the franchise. A sign-and-trade, in that scenario, would help the Sixers recoup assets if they consider his departure inevitable.
Given that he’s their own player, Philadelphia could offer as much as $190 million on a five-year max deal in an attempt to keep him. In contrast, Butler would have to settle for $140 million across four years if he chooses to pack up and head to a new organization.
If the two parties opt to explore a sign-and-trade, there’s one more thing to consider: As Luke Adams of Hoops Rumors explains, under the latest Collective Bargaining Agreement, teams are no longer permitted to sign their own free agents to max deals if they intend to package them in a sign-and-trade. That means Butler wouldn’t be able to take his $190 million haul with him to Houston.
That leads back to one scenario, in which the Sixers ink Butler to a four-year, 30% max deal with 5% raises and then package him for the Rockets while taking back adequate salaries to make the math work. This, Wojnarowski suggests, could necessitate the addition of a third team.
If the Rockets, who are already over the projected cap for next season, want to absorb Butler’s 2019-20 salary of roughly $32 million, they’d need to part with at least $26 million in salaries of their own. Enter players like Clint Capela and Eric Gordon, who Wojnarowski says the Rockets would likely need to include if they wanted to make the deal.
While both were vital parts of the Houston’s rotation in 2018-19 and not exactly simple throw-ins, Capela and Gordon are set to make just north of $30 million combined next season, plenty enough to make a deal with Philadelphia plausible.
In this scenario, if Philly has resigned to fate and determined that Butler would be okay leaving as much as $50 million in guaranteed money on the table to play elsewhere, the Sixers would at least yield two valuable assets for their troubles.
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