Sources: Jimmy Butler intends to decline player option

Philadelphia 76ers' Jimmy Butler speaks with members of the media during a news conference at the NBA basketball team's practice facility in Camden, N.J., Monday, May 13, 2019. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
Jimmy Butler has played eight NBA seasons. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Philadelphia 76ers forward Jimmy Butler intends to decline his player option — barring an unforeseen change of circumstances — yet the Sixers remain adamant about doing whatever it takes to retain the star, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

In opting out of the $19.8 million player option — in which he has a June 29 deadline to do so — it sets the eight-year veteran up to be one of the top unrestricted free agents on the market.

The Sixers were prepared for this decision, sources said.

Butler, 29, was always a top priority for the franchise, but the four-time All-Star further solidified his value to the team in the postseason with his consistent play and veteran leadership, sources said.

Butler’s agent, Bernie Lee, has been resolute since Butler’s trade demand out of Minnesota that any teams interested in him would be competing with multiple maximum contract offers, and that market is revealing itself to be true.

The Los Angeles Lakers have genuine interest in acquiring Butler, sources said.

“Knock on wood, I will get a max contract no matter where I go,” Butler stated at his exit interview last month. “You always want to be able to win. I think that’s key, for sure. You’re looking at coaches, you’re looking at the city. There’s a lot that goes into it.”

Butler complemented the skillsets of young 76ers stars Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons on both ends of the court and seemed like a natural fit.

Regarded as one of the top two-way players in the game, the Sixers understand Butler’s presence is a vital component to keeping the organization’s championship aspirations alive. Philadelphia took the champion Toronto Raptors to seven games in the second round of the playoffs.

The Sixers also want to bring back free agent Tobias Harris, who will have multiple suitors. If the franchise is able to keep the team together, the Sixers figure to rival the Raptors next season.

In 55 games with the Sixers, Butler averaged 18.2 points, 5.3 rebounds and 1.8 steals.

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