Houston Rockets

NBA drama doesn't stop as Rockets reportedly trade for Russell Westbrook

NBA drama doesn't stop as Rockets reportedly trade for Russell Westbrook

The last two weeks have been not short on drama in the NBA.

The latest major move in the league came Thursday night as ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported a trade between the Thunder and Rockets that will send Russell Westbrook to Houston.

According to The Athletic's Sam Amick, Paul might be on the move again soon, with Miami a possible destination.

As far as the Sixers are concerned, the immediate focus will remain on winning the Eastern Conference — a goal James Ennis is very confident they can achieve (see story).

Paul and Jimmy Butler teaming up in Miami would certainly be interesting, though it's difficult to analyze the threat they'd pose at this stage without knowing what the Heat would be giving up in a hypothetical deal.

If Westbrook and James Harden manage to gel along with Eric Gordon, P.J. Tucker, Clint Capela and company, the Rockets could be another contender in the West. However, the ball-dominant duo does not appear to be the most natural fit. The pair played together with Oklahoma City from 2009-2012.

A footnote for the Sixers is that the team owns the Thunder's 2020 first-round pick, which is protected 1 to 20. If the pick does not convey in 2020, it will become Oklahoma City's second-round picks in 2022 and 2023. Given that the focus for Oklahoma City general manager Sam Presti seems to be more on building for the future than contending in the present, the latter scenario appears much more likely.

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NBA free agency rumors: Jimmy Butler to take meetings with Rockets, Heat as Sixers don't 'rule out' sign-and-trade

NBA free agency rumors: Jimmy Butler to take meetings with Rockets, Heat as Sixers don't 'rule out' sign-and-trade

Updated: 7:51 p.m.

This is not the news most Sixers fans want to see.

Jimmy Butler will take free agent meetings with both the Miami Heat and Houston Rockets, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

It was clear that both teams had an interest in Butler. Now it appears that feeling is mutual. The fact that the Sixers “haven’t ruled out” working with both teams doesn’t seem to bode well, either. 

This could all be posturing. Perhaps this is all just a negotiating tactic to ensure the Sixers offer Butler a fifth year. Since they own his Bird rights, they’re the only team that can do so. The sides will reportedly meet "soon," while a couple suitors with cap space are also in the mix.

If you’re looking into the sign-and-trade option, the Heat likely have the better assets, centering around young wing Josh Richardson. The Sixers can also just let Butler walk and use the cap space his departure creates if Houston and Miami don’t offer packages that appeal to them.

All along, reports have said that the Sixers’ No. 1 priority was retaining Butler and Tobias Harris — and that could still be the case. If the team is unable to re-sign Butler, you’d have to think their attention would immediately turn to securing the 26-year-old Harris. 

A lot can happen between now and Butler’s meetings. Teams can start negotiating with free agents at 6 p.m. Sunday. The Sixers should be awfully busy around that time.

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2019 NBA free agency rumors: Rockets reportedly plan to pursue sign-and-trade with Sixers for Jimmy Butler

2019 NBA free agency rumors: Rockets reportedly plan to pursue sign-and-trade with Sixers for Jimmy Butler

Well, at least one team is trying to throw a wrench in the Sixers’ attempt to #RunItBack.

The Rockets plan to pursue Jimmy Butler in a sign-and-trade with the Sixers when the NBA’s legal tampering period begins Sunday, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

There’s a lot to untangle here. Woj is not saying that the feeling is mutual or that the Sixers would be inclined to go through with the deal. He said “if” Butler wants to go to Houston and “if” he can talk the Sixers into it. That’s two pretty big “ifs.” Woj also said the Sixers plan to “be aggressive” in re-signing the four-time All-Star.

From the Sixers’ perspective, it makes little sense to do a sign-and-trade. In order to make the money work, you’d have to take back the contracts of Eric Gordon and Clint Capela. Gordon is not the same player he once was — which is why the Rockets would be willing to move him — and Capela would be a backup center making an average annual salary of $18 million. You could theoretically flip Capela, but that’s a dicey option. The Sixers would be in a better spot by just allowing Butler to walk and use the cap space to re-sign Tobias Harris and JJ Redick and perhaps another free agent.

For Butler, there is an appeal in wanting to play for the team he grew up watching and alongside two future HOFers. But the Sixers just seem like a better fit on the court and money wise. The situation on the Rockets seems combustible. Chris Paul has reportedly asked to be dealt and it’d be interesting to see how Butler would react to James Harden’s play on defense. The Sixers can also offer Butler a five-year, $190 max deal because they own his Bird rights. It’s unclear how much Houston can actually give Butler with their murky cap situation — though GM Daryl Morey has navigated such situations before.

Butler has said repeatedly that his decision in free agency won’t be based on money.

“You always want to be able to win, I think that’s key for sure,” Butler said during his exit interview. “You’re looking at coaches, you’re looking at the city. There’s a lot that goes into it. For me, as long as I got my people with me, they’re happy, they’re smiling and we’re waking up knowing were getting to work in an environment where we’re having fun … we get it, we understand.”

Does that sound more like Houston or Philadelphia? Buckle up, Sixers fans. This is just the beginning.

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