The Houston Rockets are going all-in in their pursuit of Jimmy Butler, prepared to give up anyone short of James Harden in order to make it happen. According to ESPN, Houston is trying to unload Clint Capela, Eric Gordon and P.J. Tucker to acquire the four-time All-Star
Houston’s current payroll makes it impossible for them to offer Butler a max contract in free agency. The Rockets can land him in a sign-and-trade with the Philadelphia 76ers, though salary cap complications make adding more teams to a potential deal virtually imperative.
The Rockets’ plan would be to trade Capela, Gordon and Tucker to teams that have salary cap space in exchange for draft picks. Those picks would go to Philadelphia, who would send Butler to Houston.
Chris Paul has reportedly been made available this summer, but no team is expected to want his massive contract.
With four days left until the start of free agency, a sign-and-trade for Butler remains a long shot.
Philadelphia has been privately expressing confidence around NBA that it can re-sign Butler and Tobias Harris, but Houston remains on case of selling Butler/76ers with a sign-and-trade scenario once free agency starts on Sunday. https://t.co/xk3vLdDCGn
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) June 26, 2019
Philadelphia is expected to try and keep Butler with a max contract offer. The 76ers can offer Butler close to $190 million over five years. Other teams with cap space can only make him a four-year, $141 million offer.
For argument’s sake, let’s just say Butler does decide he wants to play in Houston, and Philadelphia agrees to do a sign-and-trade so they can receive first-round picks in exchange for the veteran. Where might players like Capela, Gordon or Tucker end up?
Here are three logical trade partners for the Rockets:
New York Knicks
It’s been well-documented how much money the Knicks have to spend. New York has been aiming to sign two max free agents, but with Kyrie Irving likely headed to the Brooklyn Nets, that probably isn’t going to happen. The Knicks will be desperate to add talent if they land Kevin Durant. Trading for players like Gordon and Capela could make a lot of sense in that scenario. New York owns all of its own first-rounders going forward, as well as two of the Dallas Mavericks’ first-round picks through 2023.
Los Angeles Clippers
The Clippers are in a similar situation as the Knicks. If they sign Kawhi Leonard, as many have expected, they’ll have some big decisions to make regarding the rest of their cap space. Leonard might meet with several teams before signing a new contract, during which time the second and third-tier free agents could come off the board. Los Angeles owns a bunch of future first-round picks, which actually includes a selection they got from a trade with Philadelphia, in order to make a deal work.
Boston was linked to Capela earlier this month when it was reported that the Rockets were exploring trading the big man. Now that Al Horford and Arron Baynes are reportedly headed elsewhere, the Celtics are an even more logical destination for Capela. Boston could have as much a $34 million in available cap space. They own a future Memphis Grizzlies’ first-rounder in addition to their own picks.