Jimmy Butler has emerged as the Houston Rockets’ leading target when NBA free agency opens on Sunday.
Butler is widely understood to be intent on opting out of the final year of his current deal with the Philadelphia 76ers. The Rockets don’t have the salary cap room to chase Butler as a free agent, ensuring they are being touted for a proposed sign-and-trade deal instead.
Butler is eligible to sign a four-year, $140m contract as a free agent although the Rockets would need to trim down their current roster significantly for that to happen. The Rockets would like to team Butler with the star backcourt of James Harden and Chris Paul in Houston.
The 76ers have not yet given up on the idea that Butler can be convinced to stay in Philadelphia, but they are also restricted given their commitment to young All Stars Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons over the next few years.
Butler, 29, averaged 18.2 points in 55 regular-season games with the Sixers, but increased his value with a more influential showing during the playoffs. He scored 30 points and 11 rebounds as 76ers claimed victory over the eventual NBA-champion Toronto Raptors in Game Two of their seven-game Eastern Conference semi-final showdown.
Houston reportedly made a large offer to the Minnesota Timberwolves prior to the Sixers landing Butler last year. Alongside the possibility of Butler’s exit, the 76ers could also possibly lose fellow forward Tobias Harris and shooting guard JJ Redick as free agents in this off-season.