The Los Angeles Lakers are spending the day before NBA free agency officially begins expressing their interest in basically every free agent on the market, and doing so legally for a change. Philadelphia 76ers guard Jimmy Butler is the latest name to surface as being among their targets, and it sounds like the team really wants to get in the room with him:
Sources: Jimmy Butler plans to meet with the 76ers soon and has interest from other teams with maximum salary space, including the Lakers and Nets, and sign-and-trade possibilities elsewhere.— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) June 29, 2019
Jimmy Butler meets with Heat officials at 6:01 PM ET tonight but continues to draw interest from a number of suitors, league sources say, with the Lakers making the latest aggressive bid. Lakers officials, I'm told, are pushing for a pitch meeting with Butler— Marc Stein (@TheSteinLine) June 30, 2019
This isn’t the first time the Lakers have been linked to Butler, who they were reportedly expected to chase hard in the immediate aftermath of the Anthony Davis trade. While it seems their attention is mostly on Kawhi Leonard right now, Butler would be another decent option for them to spend their newfound max cap room on.
The Lakers won’t be alone in pursuing him, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:
Sources: Jimmy Butler expected to meet the Miami Heat in South Fla. Sunday. Butler/Rockets meeting likely early week in LA. Sixers haven’t ruled out working with Butler on sign-and-trades, which Miami and Houston need to acquire the All-Star guard.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) June 29, 2019
One thing that might make Butler a realistic option, however, is that he may still be in a holding pattern by the time Leonard makes his decision. While free agents like D’Angelo Russell will probably be in a rush to make sure the music doesn’t stop before their find their next stop, Butler seems to be willing to work with teams on complicated sign-and-trade scenarios that take time to figure out, and thus could still be available when the Lakers find out what Leonard’s decision will be. If he chooses another team, L.A. could re-engage with the second-best two-way wing on the market.
Butler has his warts, and has now left his last three teams seemingly unhappy. Those are potential red flags, but on the court, his fit as an attacking wing who can shoot a little, guard several positions and run a pick and roll would all seem to be skills the Lakers could use as they fill in the roster around Anthony Davis and LeBron James. He’s also been proven on the postseason stage multiple times, which does mean something and give him an edge over other potential targets for the Lakers.
This still seems to be a long way from happening, and both sides appear to have higher priorities, but if they’re both left without a surefire partner as last call in free agency approaches, a union may be a pretty good fallback scenario for both sides.
For more Lakers talk, subscribe to the Silver Screen and Roll podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. Here is a list of every free agent credibly connected to the Lakers so far. You can follow Harrison on Twitter at @hmfaigen.