NBA Rumors: Latest on Possible Jimmy Butler Trade, D'Angelo Russell, More

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistJune 30, 2019

TORONTO, ON - MAY 12:  Kawhi Leonard #2 of the Toronto Raptors speaks with Jimmy Butler #23 of the Philadelphia 76ers after sinking a buzzer beater to win Game Seven of the second round of the 2019 NBA Playoffs at Scotiabank Arena on May 12, 2019 in Toronto, Canada.  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 Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

The official start of NBA free agency Sunday night will come with the completion of a few deals, but there are plenty of free agents who will carefully assess their options before finalizing contracts.

Jimmy Butler and D'Angelo Russell are two players who fall into that category, having been linked with a few different teams, but they have not come close to making a call on where they will play next season.

Most of the focus surrounding Butler's free agency in recent days has been on potential sign-and-trade deals, but there is a scenario still in play that could land him somewhere other than with the Philadelphia 76ers on a free-agent contract.

As for Russell, the most-talked about rumor regarding his future involves a reunion with the Los Angeles Lakers. That is one of the avenues he can explore once the Brooklyn Nets officially ink Kyrie Irving to a deal.

The high-profile free agents are receiving the bulk of the attention, but there are plenty of other impact players who are about to make important decisions as well.


Latest NBA Rumors

Jimmy Butler

According to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, Butler is set to meet with the Miami Heat on Sunday and then possibly with the Houston Rockets early next week.

Tim Reynolds of the AP reported Butler is interested in joining the Heat but that they face some contractual obstacles in order to acquire him in a sign-and-trade deal with Philadelphia.

The Houston Rockets have reportedly been in the mix for Butler all week, and according to Marc Stein of the New York Times, they believe they have a trade partner for Clint Capela to start the process for a Butler trade.

Chris Szagola/Associated Press

Since Miami and Houston do not have enough cap space to sign Butler outright, they must negotiate trade packages with either the Sixers, or other teams, to open up the room for him if he chooses that direction.

The Los Angeles Clippers have a simpler path to Butler if they want to sign him, and Stein reported they are looking into the feasibility of signing him and Kawhi Leonard.

The Athletic's Shams Charania reported the Sixers plan to meet with Butler soon and that he has interest from Brooklyn and the Los Angeles Lakers, who could sign him in free agency without the use of a sign-and-trade.

Charania also reported the fifth year on Philadelphia's contract offer to Butler will be of critical importance.

Since he has no shortage of suitors, Butler must pick which team is the best fit for his long-term future.

If he believes he can win championships alongside Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid in Philadelphia, Butler could put an end to all the drama and sign the max deal with the Sixers.

Philadelphia would be wise to offer the fifth year to Butler since it is the only team capable of doing so. Even if Butler chooses to go elsewhere, the Sixers have to put their best effort forward in negotiations to try to keep a key piece of their roster.

Although Miami and Houston could be viewed as intriguing options, a lot has to go right for both teams to clear salary space.

If Philadelphia does not want to take on certain contracts, the Heat and Rockets would need to find other teams willing to trade before coming back to the Sixers with an offer of draft picks and more preferable players.

If the Clippers, Lakers or Nets want to combine superstars, Butler could be lured away from Philadelphia.

Butler's decision-making process, and the hoops certain teams jump through to get him, could be one of the most intriguing stories to watch as free agency unfolds.


D'Angelo Russell

Russell's situation appears to be much easier to figure out than Butler's since there are fewer parties involved.

Chris Szagola/Associated Press

According to Wojnarowski, the Lakers have reached out to Russell's agents regarding a meeting.

Yahoo's Keith Smith reported on the Minnesota Timberwolves' interest in the point guard, and he said the Wolves and Russell's representatives would not have set up a meeting if they did not believe Minnesota could create space to sign Russell.

A return to Brooklyn appears to be off the table, with the Nets set to ink Kyrie Irving to a deal. According to Newsday's Greg Logan, a pairing of Irving and Russell is unlikely, with the Nets looking to pair a point guard with a power forward.

Russell's situation is interesting because he could be in line for a reunion with the Lakers, who traded him away to the Nets in 2017.

If he were to sign in Los Angeles, Russell would join up with Anthony Davis, LeBron James and Kyle Kuzma, who was taken with the first-round pick the Lakers acquired from the Nets in the Russell trade.

Russell would be a great fit with the Lakers since they need an experienced point guard to run an offense that already features two of the league's top scorers.

However, the one hang-up in that process could be the Lakers going after another free agent with the cap space they have to sign a max player.

Just like Russell's exit in Brooklyn was triggered by a top-tier free agent, his potential arrival in Los Angeles could be hampered by the signing of another star, which would then allow Minnesota to swoop in and sign him after clearing cap space.


Kevon Looney

According to Stein, Kevon Looney will meet with the Rockets on Sunday.

David Zalubowski/Associated Press

Houston's interest in Looney serves a few purposes, with the first being a cheaper addition to the frontcourt that would weaken the roster of one of its top rivals, the Golden State Warriors.

The second factor is the potential deals the Rockets may swing to acquire Butler. In that situation, they would need a big man to replace Capela if he gets traded.

Houston has to be an intriguing option for Looney because of its title aspirations and the perceived path to the top of the Western Conference it has with Golden State weakened by injuries.

However, the Warriors' unfortunate situation could end up benefiting Looney if he decides to re-sign there because they have to find a way to make up for Klay Thompson's lost production.

A combination of Looney, Stephen Curry and Draymond Green would give the Warriors a strong foundation to build off of as they try to navigate their injury woes and contend for a championship.


Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90.