In what should come as no real surprise to anyone who follows the team, the Houston Rockets are said to be in hot pursuit of Jimmy Butler, according to the Houston Chronicle.
Rockets are expected to pursue Butler and be aggressive in their pursuit. Seen as an ideal fit on both ends of court, and in helping push Rockets to the top of the wide-open West.— Brian T. Smith (@ChronBrianSmith) June 19, 2019
GM Daryl Morey has been after Butler for a while now, reportedly offering the Minnesota Timberwolves four first-round draft picks and a package of players for Butler earlier this year. The Wolves didn’t want to send Butler to a close rival, so they shipped him off to the Philadelphia 76ers instead.
Butler has a $19 million player option for next season, meaning he can waive it and become an unrestricted free agent, or he can exercise it in a possible trade to a team like the Rockets, who are otherwise up against the cap and wouldn’t be able to sign Butler outright. He could also sign a new deal or extension before being traded.
When Morey has his sights on a white whale, he usually goes full Ahab until he has them, for better or for worse (see Carmelo Anthony, Dwight Howard), so I have no doubt that the Rockets are aggressively pursuing this sign-and-trade.
On paper, Butler is a perfect fit. He brings the defensive acumen the Rockets have been looking for at the the small forward position ever since Trevor Ariza left, and he brings offensive ability Ariza never had even on his best days.
With Chris Paul looking a step slower this season, the Rockets are also in dire need of another guy who can put the ball in the bucket, and Butler averaged 18.7 points per game last season on 46 percent shooting. He would fill multiple needs.
The bigger question is the personality fit. Butler is known for being high-strung. How does he fit in with two other strong personalities in Chris Paul and James Harden?
For what it’s worth, I think all three would realize this as their best chance, especially with the Golden State Warriors on the ropes, and make it work. You add Butler to this mix, and I honestly feel you’re looking at a return to the 65-win juggernaut of two seasons ago. The long-term viability of this grouping, I’m little less certain of.
But you can absolutely get 2-3 seasons (Harden’s prime) out of them, and this is a move you definitely make if you can and would immediately catapult the Rockets to clear preseason favorites in the West.