Houston Rockets

Jimmy Butler could turn the Rockets into a combustible mix

If Chris Paul and James Harden really aren’t coexisting well, the addition of Jimmy Butler would give the Rockets a combustible mix of players.

When NBA free agency launches Sunday night, Jimmy Butler will be one of the big names available. The Philadelphia 76ers can offer the most years and money, via a five-year max contract worth $189.7 million, and Butler may indeed had back to what should continue to be a contending team.

As unpalatable as it is on the surface, Brian Smith of the Houston Chronicle reported the Rockets are expected to pursue Butler as an unrestricted free agent last week. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski added to the idea on Tuesday, as he reported the Rockets are planning to recruit Butler and push the 76ers to do a sign-and-trade.

The 76ers would have to be afraid Butler is set to leave for a team that has a lot of cap space to even consider doing a sign-and-trade deal. The Rockets are up against it financially, but a point in their corner would be assets to offer (Eric Gordon? Clint Capela? P.J. Tucker?) which would allow Philadelphia to get something in return for Butler.

It was easy to see the relationship between Chris Paul and James Harden going off the rails when Houston traded for Paul. Despite the expected internal denials of the reports Paul demanded a trade or has been shopped around and/or that he and Harden don’t get along, two typically ball dominant guards will have a hard time co-existing if one does not willingly defer. To say nothing of conflict seeming to follow Paul from his time with the Clippers.

Apart from his history of overtly criticizing coaches and teammates, to the point of being easily tabbed as a divisive locker room presence, Butler is primarily an isolation-heavy player on the offensive end. He also isn’t a particularly good 3-point shooter (34.7 percent in 2018-19; 34.1 percent for his career), so his fit with the Rockets’ broader philosophy looks strained at best.

ESPN’s Bobby Marks laid out how a third team would have to be involved for the Rockets and 76ers to do a sign-and-trade involving Butler. It comes down to matching up money.

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The Golden State Warriors look vulnerable heading toward next season, so the Rockets have a strong case to push all their chips into the middle of the table by adding a third star this offseason. But Butler is a bad fit all-the-way around, and leaving aside any pressure from ownership a savvy general manager like Daryl Morey has to see that.

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