There’s a feeling around the NBA that the Nets will have a real shot to land Jimmy Butler in free agency, according to Brian Lewis of The New York Post, who reports that Brooklyn is expected to be in the hunt for the veteran swingman this offseason. As Lewis notes, Kevin Durant figures to be the Nets’ top free agent target, but the team is eyeing other players, and Butler will be near the top of that list.
“We’re going to have options,” head coach Kenny Atkinson told ESPN on Thursday, per Lewis. “A, I think we all know what A is. There’s some great players out there. But we also feel comfortable with B, C and D that if it doesn’t go our way in free agency.”
In addition to Durant, the Nets will likely explore the possibility of signing Kyrie Irving, who is expected to give the team consideration. But with Spencer Dinwiddie set to begin a multiyear extension and D’Angelo Russell a good candidate to return on a new deal, a two-way wing like Butler may be the better fit.
As Lewis points out, Butler reportedly had the Nets among the teams on his wish list – along with the Clippers, Knicks, and Heat – before he was traded from Minnesota to Philadelphia last fall. The 29-year-old had a productive season with the Sixers, coming within one game of the Eastern Finals, but he’s believed to still look favorably on Brooklyn, Lewis writes.
With Butler set to turn 30 before the 2019/20 season begins, the battle for his services could come down to which teams are willing to offer him the max, and for how long. After the Sixers were eliminated on Sunday, Butler said, “Technically I think, knock on wood, I will get a max contract anywhere I choose to go.” But there’s no guarantee that teams will be willing to go up to four (or more) years on a player who would be earning $40MM+ in his age-33 season.
Based on current cap projections, the 76ers could offer Butler up to about $189.7MM over five years, while a rival team could put a four-year, $140.6MM offer on the table. The Nets won’t quite have enough cap room for a max free agent unless they renounce Russell, but could make other moves to create that space.