Houston Rockets: Jimmy Butler will be the team’s top target in free agency

Free agent guard/forward Jimmy Butler, who expected to be targeted by the Houston Rockets (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
Free agent guard/forward Jimmy Butler, who expected to be targeted by the Houston Rockets (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /

The Houston Rockets will reportedly be aggressive in their pursuit of Jimmy Butler, who is a free agent, this offseason. Can they land him? Let’s talk.

The Houston Rockets have done a really good job of keeping its fanbase off-balance in regard to its plans for the offseason.  We’ve heard rumors from that the entire team — outside of James Harden — would be available for trade, to Chris Paul demanding a trade, to the rift between Harden and Paul causing them to want to separate.

Daryl Morey was able to debunk those myths by publicly admitting earlier this week that not only he wouldn’t trade Paul but that he hasn’t requested one to make, to begin with.

He also confirmed that he wants to keep things intact with the Houston Rockets and that he feels that this team has excellent shot to win it all, considering the Golden State Warriors injury woes and the hobbling runner-up finish to this season’s NBA Finals.

But one of the things that caught my ear when he was being interviewed by SportsTalk 790’s Sean Salisbury this past week was that he wanted to add a third star to the mix.

He wasn’t specific on who he wanted as I’m sure he didn’t want to violate any tampering rules that have been set in the NBA bylaws but he sounded deadset on that being a central part of his offseason plan.

Brian T. Smith of the Houston Chronicle has admonished who likely that third star will be.


It’s going to be none other than Jimmy Butler.

Butler will reportedly be at the top of the team’s free agency shopping list but it certainly won’t be an easy path for the team to try to land the star that calls Tomball his home.

Butler recently declined his $19.8 million player option for 2019-20, making him an unrestricted free agent one season early.

Him being a free agent certainly will make things a bit more complicated for the Houston Rockets to land him but it’s not impossible.

The Houston Rockets have $120.5 million committed to salary for 2019-20 which is over the league’s salary cap, estimated to be $109 million.  They’re still below the luxury tax line of $132 million.

Here are two things that the Houston Rockets could do:

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A.)  They’ll need to make some trades to clear the racks to allow room for what Butler wants — likely the maximum allowable contract or close to it — and those deals would certainly include Eric Gordon, Clint Capela and P.J. Tucker.  You may not have to include Tucker in a deal but either Gordon or Capela goes to free up the cash.  The team will have to take on salary or assets that makes sure they’re better off then when they started.

B.) This is not likely but the Houston Rockets just decide to go all-in and try to sign Butler outright in spite of the punitive financial damage it could cause by going over the luxury tax line to sign him.  They could still trade at least one player and not be so deep into the tax but this isn’t a very good idea.  Plus, it really demonstrates a GM’s wit when he’s able to build a team within the constraints given without having to throw extra money at a situation.  I’m sure that’s what makes Morey’s job so rewarding day in and out with the challenges that it presents.

Regardless, it will be awesome to see how Morey is able to pull off such a proposal as we’ll be keeping our eyes peeled on what happens next.

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Butler, 29, averaged 18.7 points, 5.3 rebounds and 4.0 assists with a shooting line of .462/.347/.855 in 65 games with the Minnesota Timberwolves and Philadelphia 76ers this past season.