Warriors

Report: Rockets among teams interested in Jimmy Butler

Report: Rockets among teams interested in Jimmy Butler

Could Jimmy Butler go home to Houston?

Apparently, the Rockets are interested in trying to make it happen, though we're not sure how the numbers would work out.

According to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, the Rockets, Nets, Pistons, Clippers, Heat, 76ers and Blazers are "interested in talking further with Minnesota" about trying to acquire the four-time All-Star. The Cavs are also interested acquiring Butler, according to Woj.

Houston has a problem, though. They are already $11.444 million over the luxury cap threshold. Butler is set to make $20.445 million in 2018-19 and $19.841 million in 2019-20, so the Rockets would have to do salary cap gymnastics to make a deal work.

On Friday, GM Daryl Morey told The Houston Chronicle that the Rockets are "doing what we can to prepare for" the Warriors.

Acquiring Butler would certainly fit that messaging.

NBA rumors: Clippers tried to trade for James Harden, Bradley Beal

NBA rumors: Clippers tried to trade for James Harden, Bradley Beal

With the Warriors entering a new phase of their franchise following their NBA Finals loss to the Toronto Raptors and the departure of Kevin Durant, the Los Angeles Clippers saw an opening in the Western Conference.

Kawhi Leonard was the key to taking the Clippers from plucky role-player fueled underdogs to legitimate NBA champions, and Clips owner Steve Ballmer and Co. did what was necessary to ensure they secured the star. In the end, the Clippers got their man, convincing Leonard to sign with them while simultaneously orchestrating a trade for Thunder superstar Paul George. 

It was a power move that shook the NBA to its core. Adding Leonard and George gives the Clippers a pair of elite two-way wings, but George apparently wasn't their first choice for Leonard's co-star.

Before the Clippers called the Thunder about George, LAC inquired about the availability of James Harden and Bradley Beal, The Athletic's Sam Amick and Jovan Buha reported Tuesday, citing league sources. 

Neither the Rockets or the Wizards were willing to discuss trading their star, so the Clippers moved on to the Thunder and landed George for a package of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Danilo Gallinari and a boatload of draft picks.

The Rockets then pounced on the suddenly rebuilding Thunder, trading Chris Paul, two draft picks and two pick swaps to OKC for Russell Westbrook, getting Harden an in-his-prime star to lead the Rockets' charge to supplant the Warriors atop the Western Conference. 

[RELATED: Ranking best quartets in new-look Western Conference]

A pairing of Leonard and Harden or Leonard and Beal would have been deadly, but neither packs the 1-2 punch that Leonard and George do on both ends of the floor. As such, the Clippers now enter next season as the favorites to win the NBA title, with the Rockets and Los Angeles Lakers right on their heels.

As for the Warriors, they hope Steph Curry, Draymond Green and D'Angelo Russell can keep them afloat until Klay Thompson returns from his torn ACL.

NBA power rankings: Western Conference standings by top four players

NBA power rankings: Western Conference standings by top four players

Editor's note: Grant Liffmann (@grantliffmann) is the co-host of Warriors Outsiders, which airs on NBC Sports Bay Area 90 minutes before each home game and 60 minutes after every game. Each week, Grant will drop his Outsider Observation on the state of the Dubs.

The NBA landscape was completely altered this summer with many teams loading up on star power, in an effort to make a run for a suddenly wide-open NBA title. Following the league's talent reshuffling, the Western Conference is deeper than ever, and with Kevin Durant leaving the Warriors to head to the Brooklyn Nets, there is no clear-cut favorite to win the conference.

To illustrate how talented the West is, I will rank all the teams in the conference by their four best players.

This list does not show how I'd rank each team in the standings. Some teams are built on depth rather than star power (i.e. Denver), while others have question marks about their bench (i.e. Golden State). Also, for the sake of this exercise, let us assume all players are completely healthy.

Opinions definitely will vary on the order of this list, and the players I selected to represent each team. So what do you think?

Click to see Grant's rankings of top quartets in Western Conference