Update #1: June 28, 3:22 pm: As mentioned below, one of the key pieces that would likely have to move in a potential Jimmy Butler sign-and-trade is Clint Capela. According to Marc Stein of the New York Times, the Rockets believes that they already have a trade partner lined up. Houston, however does not intend to deal Capela if a Butler deal doesn’t work out.
The Houston Rockets don’t have the available cap space to pursue unrestricted free agent Jimmy Butler but that doesn’t mean they aren’t still interested in his services. Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN writes that the Rockets very much plan to recruit Butler and intend to push the Philadelphia 76ers for a sign-and-trade agreement.
Although Philly can technically offer Butler considerably more money than he could attract with a new team, there’s no guarantee that the 29-year-old wishes to remain with the franchise. A sign-and-trade, in that scenario, would help the Sixers recoup assets if they consider his departure inevitable.
Given that he’s their own player, Philadelphia could offer as much as $190 million on a five-year max deal in an attempt to keep him. In contrast, Butler would have to settle for $140 million across four years if he chooses to pack up and head to a new organization.
If the two parties opt to explore a sign-and-trade, there’s one more thing to consider: As Luke Adams of Hoops Rumors explains, under the latest Collective Bargaining Agreement, teams are no longer permitted to sign their own free agents to max deals if they intend to package them in a sign-and-trade. That means Butler wouldn’t be able to take his $190 million haul with him to Houston.
That leads back to one scenario, in which the Sixers ink Butler to a four-year, 30% max deal with 5% raises and then package him for the Rockets while taking back adequate salaries to make the math work. This, Wojnarowski suggests, could necessitate the addition of a third team due to complicated base year compensation rules.
In sign-and-trade scenarios, the team getting rid of the signee needs to match salaries with one figure (either 50% of the player’s new deal or 100% of the player’s previous deal, whichever is higher), while the team accepting the signee needs to match the new deal.
In Butler’s case, Philly would need to match Butler’s 2018-19 salary of $19.8 million while Houston would need to match Butler’s 2019-20 salary of approximately $32.7 million. They’d be playing by two different sets of rules.
Given that salary matching mechanisms in this scenario only allow for 125% breathing room, Houston would need to bring back about $26 million (because 125% of that is about $32.7 million) while Philadelphia could accept a max of approximately $25 million (roughly 125% of $19.8 million).
The discrepancy between the two goal numbers is what would likely necessitate a third team.
Wojnarowski adds Clint Capela and Eric Gordon as potential Rockets who could be involved in such a multiteam deal.