NBA scoring champion James Harden and playmaker Chris Paul would have Philadelphia star Jimmy Butler as a new teammate if the Houston Rockets get their way, ESPN reported Wednesday.
Unnamed league sources told the US-based telecaster that the Rockets want Butler to push the 76ers for a sign-and-trade deal that would let the All-Star forward move to Houston.
The Rockets, who lack salary cap room for the deal, would potentially have to involve a third team in the deal and potentially part with center Clint Capela, forward P.J. Tucker or guard Eric Gordon to make any swap work under NBA contract rules.
The Sixers would see some compensation for Butler compared to if he departed as a free agent but they also could sign him to a long-term deal of their own.
NBA free agency opens Sunday and the 76ers can offer Butler the best possible terms at $190 million over five years. The Rockets could pitch $140 million over four seasons.
Philadelphia obtained Butler last November in a trade with Minnesota and he produced 16.7 points, 4.9 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 1.6 steals a game for the 76ers.
The Sixers lost to eventual champion Toronto in the second round of the NBA playoffs on a seventh-game buzzer beater by Kawhi Leonard that bounced off the rim four times before dropping into the hoop.
Under NBA free agency rules, teams can agree upon terms of deals but no contracts can be signed until July 6, although reports on most deals leak out well before teams can confirm them.