Rumor: 76ers might make run at Jimmy Butler if they strike out with Paul George

Toronto Raptors v Miami Heat
Toronto Raptors v Miami Heat

This much is certain: The 76ers have max cap space this summer and are going big game hunting, ideally for an elite wing to play with Joel Embiid and Tyrese Maxey.

It's the worst-kept secret in the NBA that Paul George is at the top of Philadelphia’s list, but if he agrees to an extension with the Clippers and stays in his hometown, what is Plan B? It might be a reunion with the Heat's Jimmy Butler, reports Marc Stein in his latest newsletter.

Butler has one guaranteed season left on his contract at $48.8 million before a $52.2 million player option for 2025-26. The 34-year-old, who turns 35 in September, will be seeking a contract extension this summer, meaning that the Heat risk alienating their post-Dwyane Wade face of the franchise if they prioritize future flexibility and an extension is not hashed out. More than one rival team out there has likewise wondered whether Philadelphia, in the wake of its first-round exit, will mount a trade run at Butler to reacquire Joel Embiid's close friend if the 76ers are unsuccessful in using their projected $50-plus million in salary cap space to acquire presumed top target, Paul George. Butler's highly successful stay on South Beach, of course, began when the Sixers prioritized retaining Ben Simmons and Tobias Harris over Butler and agreed to sign-and-trade him to Miami when the Heat had minimal salary cap space.

Stein isn't the only person to mention Butler to the Sixers as a possibility, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst did as well. It's also a long shot to come together.

Butler is expected to push for a max two-year contract extension worth about $113 million from the Heat this offseason (he would give up his player option year, locking him in with Miami for three seasons at $161.8 million). Considering Butler turns 35 before next season and hasn't played 65 games in a season since coming to the Heat — the last time he played 70 or more was in 2017 — Miami might balk at locking themselves in with him for that long. Which is why there is some buzz the Heat might try to trade Butler this summer.

While Philly would have the cap space to absorb Butler's salary in a trade, it would have to offer enough back in a deal to interest Miami, and that could involve a third team — it's not an easy deal to put together. Even if it goes through, then the 76ers are betting on Embiid and Butler both being healthy for a playoff run to be contenders. Good luck with that.

The real takeaway is that Daryl Morey and the 76ers will do whatever it takes to find a third star to go with Embiid and Maxey. Geroge is at the top of the list, and Butler's name comes up in rumors as a secondary option, along with Brandon Ingram. There will be other names that pop up as well. Philly is swinging for the fences.