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Jimmy Butler free agency rumors: Rockets expected to aggressively pursue 76ers star in offseason

The Houston Rockets are eager to make moves and Jimmy Butler appears to be on their radar.

According to a report from Brian T. Smith of the Houston Chronicle, the Rockets are interested in adding Jimmy Butler as a free agent. Butler is expected to opt out of his contract with the Philadelphia 76ers.

The Rockets are going through tons of turmoil at the current moment. Just one year removed from being within a game of an NBA Finals appearance, there are reports that stars James Harden and Chris Paul are clashing, both on and off court. Not only that, but everyone with the exception of Harden is reportedly on the trade block. Plus, contract extension talks with Mike D’Antoni have stalled after it had been reported that both sides had been talking again after issues during the initial negotiations.

Butler, 29, is a bona fide two-way player who is a proven NBA star with a wealth of playoff experience. He’s a four-time All-Star and a six-time All-Defensive selection who came within a game — and one insane Kawhi Leonard winning shot — from leading a young Philadelphia 76ers squad to the Eastern Conference finals.

After being acquired by the Sixers shortly after the start of the season, Butler averaged 18.2 points, 5.3 rebounds and 4.0 assists per game while fitting in seamlessly as an offensive option alongside Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons.

Despite all of this chaos within the organization, general manager Daryl Morey remains committed to maintaining the Rockets as a contender. After being eliminated four times in the past five seasons from the playoffs by the Golden State Warriors, Houston appears to now have a legit opportunity of not only defeating the Warriors in the 2020 playoffs, but advancing to the NBA Finals. That would be because Kevin Durant is expected to be out for the entirety of the 2019-20 season due to an Achilles injury while Klay Thompson isn’t expected back until February due to a torn ACL in his knee.

Acquiring a player of Butler’s magnitude may be the glue that ends up holding the organization together. The Rockets could have a new and more formidable “Big Three” after their failed experiment with the veteran trio of Harden, Paul and Carmelo Anthony last season lasted just a total of 10 games.

With Butler expected to command a max contract and the Rockets already have signed Harden to the largest contract extension ever — worth $228 million total — along with being on the books for Paul’s $38.5 million this season, the question becomes, how would they make the numbers work with Butler?

One thing is for certain: If Houston can acquire Butler and at least pair him up with Harden, they would undoubtedly remain one of the top contenders in the West heading into next season.