The Houston Rockets will look to improve this offseason, including looking to add another All-Star to the mix. Is it realistic to continue pursuing one free agent forward?
The Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey is known to be an aggressive-minded, big game hunter as an NBA General Manager. Rightfully so, considering the recent competitive landscape of the NBA and the opportunity that lies ahead of the 2019-2020 NBA season.
While on the Sean Salisbury show on SportsRadio 790, Daryl Morey added that he is seeking to add a third star. When asked if he would field calls on Chris Paul, Morey replied, “No, we want to add one more star to this team.”
Daryl Morey on 790: "Chris Paul Does Not Want to Be Traded, We Want to Add" https://t.co/BizJsoXZbs
— SportsTalk 790 (@SportsTalk790) June 17, 2019
Why it would be difficult
Despite Morey’s reputation of being a master around the salary cap, this move will be especially difficult for a multitude of reasons.
For starters, as outlined here by Spotrac, the Rockets are already committed to a payroll of over 113 million between their starting 5, despite the salary cap being set at 109 million. This would leave them with only the mid-level exception, unless they are willing to pay the luxury tax set at 132 million. Morey has said that he’s been given the authority by owner Tilman Fertitta to dip into the luxury tax to improve the team’s roster.
Jimmy Butler would have to opt-in to the remaining year on his contract, which is a player option of 19.8 million, and get traded to Houston. In addition, the Rockets would need to have a handshake agreement with Butler that if he were to sacrifice now, they would give him a max contract one year from now in return, a la Chris Paul.
This could be difficult because Butler could receive a max offer right now of 4 years/$141 million (if not with the Sixers) and 5 years/$191 million (if with the Sixers). In addition, Butler will likely be a hot commodity, considering he is 4-time All-Star and 2-time Third Team All-NBA player, in addition to being a 4-time Second team All-Defensive player.
I know Butler is from the Houston area (Tomball to be exact) and I know he is currently in Houston as well, but would he willingly accept a pay cut this year of at least $15 million to join the Rockets? In addition, if the Rockets facilitate a trade to the Sixers, what exactly would you send them? The outgoing salaries have to match the incoming salaries. It seems unlikely they would take on Chris Paul’s contract, as he is owed 3 years/124 million remaining, although he could help a young Sixers team and thrive with Ben Simmons.
Another trade option the Rockets would have is center Clint Capela. However, this seems even less likely with the Sixers as they already have All-Star center Joel Embiid and wouldn’t have a need for Capela. The Rockets could certainly include a third team, but that complicates the trade even further. The Rockets do however have their first-round picks between years 2020-2026 which they could possibly offer as trade bait, but they would still need to send out matching salaries.
In case you’re thinking back to the trade negotiations the Houston Rockets had mid-season with the Minnesota Timberwolves, that was a much different situation.
According to Shams Charania of The Athletic, the Rockets were offering the highly publicized 4 1st round draft picks in addition to the contracts of Brandon Knight and Marquese Chriss, both of whom are no longer on the roster.
The acquisition of Butler would certainly be challenging, but if there is anyone capable of pulling this off, it certainly is Morey.
We’ll have to see how this unfolds, as Butler would undoubtedly be a great addition for a Houston Rockets team looking to get over the hump.