Jimmy Butler free agency rumors: Rockets searching for first-round pick as prelude to potential sign-and-trade with 76ers

Jimmy Butler is slated to become an unrestricted free agent next week, and while the Philadelphia 76ers can offer Butler the most lucrative deal, the Houston Rockets have reportedly emerged as another contender for his services. According to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, the Rockets will try to recruit Butler to potentially force a sign-and-trade deal with the Sixers. Per ESPN:

Once free agency starts on Sunday, the Houston Rockets are planning to recruit Jimmy Butler to push the Philadelphia 76ers for a sign-and-trade deal that would allow the All-Star forward to join James Harden and Chris Paul, league sources tell ESPN.

The Rockets don't have the salary-cap space to sign Butler, so they'd need the threat of the Sixers losing him for nothing to a team with the available room to motivate the Sixers into a trade.

According to a report from Wojnarowski and Zach Lowe, the Rockets are looking to move one of Clint Capela, Eric Gordon or PJ Tucker to try and find a first-round pick to include in a potential deal. 

Wojnarowski also reports that the Sixers are going to be "aggressive" in an attempt to re-sign Butler. Philadelphia could offer Butler a five-year, $190 million deal to remain with the team or a four-year, $146.5 million contract if they so choose. If Butler were to land in Houston, he'd be signing a four-year, $140 million contract. 

Butler was traded to Philadelphia last November from the Minnesota Timberwolves in exchange for Robert Covington and Dario Saric. During his time with the Sixers, Butler averaged 18.2 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 4.0 assists while shooting 33.8 percent from beyond the arc.

This is certainly going to be a huge offseason for the Sixers, who will be tasked with attempting to re-sign Butler and/or Tobias Harris. Much like Butler, Philadelphia made a bold move to acquire Harris' services from the Los Angeles Clippers in a deal that sent 2018 first-round pick Landry Shamet and multiple first-round picks the other way.

In addition, only Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, Zhaire Smith, and Jonah Bolden under contract as of now. Sharpshooting guard J.J. Redick will also be a free agent and Philadelphia may want to hold onto him for a third consecutive season.

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