Jimmy Butler has options as a free agent starting at 6 p.m. Eastern on Sunday.
The question becomes, are the options beyond the Philadelphia 76ers being leaked — including Miami and Houston, who need to do a sign-and-trade to land Butler — to put pressure on Philly to make sure it gives him a five-year, $191 million max offer (which the Sixers have said they would do, but everyone knows the last couple years of that contract could be rough).
Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN and Shams Charania of The Athletic Tweeted this out on Saturday.
Those “sign-and-trades” appear more smokescreen than reality. Philadelphia wants to keep Butler and would only agree to a sign-and-trade if Butler requested it and threatened to leave to a third team with cap space if the Sixers did not make the trade. The Lakers and Nets have cap space and interest in Butler, at least if their top targets chose other destinations (Kawhi Leonard, Kevin Durant), but Butler would have to wait for the first dominoes to fall. Also, if Leonard/Durant falls through, the Lakers and Nets are not going to wait around for Butler to use them as leverage to force a trade, it may well be days into free agency when Leonard and Durant make their calls, and by that point the Lakers and Nets will need to move fast.
In the case of Miami, it’s hard to imagine a sign-and-trade Philly would agree to even then because they don’t want Goran Dragic, Hassan Whiteside, or Ryan Anderson. Kelly Olynyk and Josh Richardson would work for Philly, but not Miami. The Rockets offer with some combination of Clint Capela (maybe traded for a pick to be part of this deal), Eric Gordon and P.J. Tucker makes a lot more sense for Philly. But again, only if they are forced into this.
The real question for Butler is what offer do the Sixers put on the table to open free agency. If it is the full five-year max at $191 million, with no team options, it’s hard to picture Butler turning it down. In part because it’s a lot of money, and in part because he sees his career as the underappreciated underdog and this would be a level of validation he has never had before.
Then again, he might turn that offer down to chase a title on his own terms. Maybe team up with Kawhi Leonard on the Clippers?
Butler has all these options and more (the Knicks among them), and in a summer of unpredictable free agency Butler could be the biggest wild card in the deck.