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Report: Rockets thought they were getting Jimmy Butler, were ready to trade Clint Capela and Eric Gordon

Jimmy Butler and Eric Gordon

MIAMI, FLORIDA - NOVEMBER 03: Jimmy Butler #22 of the Miami Heat in action against the Houston Rockets in the second half at American Airlines Arena on November 03, 2019 in Miami, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images)

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Houston had no cap space last summer. But a star – Jimmy Butler – was available. So, of course Rockets general manager Daryl Morey was interested.

Morey reportedly lined up a Clint Capela trade if Houston could’ve gotten Butler. But that still left other challenges:

  • Convincing Butler to come
  • Convincing the 76ers to sign-and-trade Butler
  • Trading Eric Gordon or P.J. Tucker
  • Building a supporting cast while hard-capped

Just how close did the Rockets come to executing that plan?

Tim MacMahon of ESPN:

The Rockets wanted to pay Jimmy Butler the four-year max, and he ghosted them. They thought they had him, and he left them hanging.
I don’t know the teams, the destinations. But they had trades lined up for Capela and Gordon, and they were ready to pay Jimmy Butler. They really liked their chances and then, suddenly, Jimmy had other thoughts.

I wonder how Butler would characterize the situation. This was a turbulent time for him as he sought a max contact. Houston’s confidence might have been more wishful thinking.

Ultimately, Butler joined the Heat in a sign-and-trade. Butler and Miami look like a perfect fit. Philadelphia landed a quality young player in Josh Richardson, whose lower salary allowed the 76ers to add Al Horford.

Were the Rockets really going to make a better offer to Butler and Philadelphia? It seems most likely Houston just came up short.

But it’s still interesting to explore where the Rockets would be if they executed this transaction. Would Houston have still traded Chris Paul for Russell Westbrook? There were real issues between Paul and James Harden, though maybe the incumbent stars would’ve given it another shot with Butler. The Rockets would have also still had the first-round picks sent to the Thunder. Building depth would’ve been difficult, but keeping Tucker would’ve been huge, and those picks could have been used in other trades.