Few NBA players improved their stock as much as Jimmy Butler did this past season. The 6’6″ shooting guard averaged 20.0 PPG, 5.8 RPG and 3.3 APG. Given his impressive performance, which landed Butler his first All-Star Game appearance, the Chicago Bulls are expected to present him with a maximum 5-year, $90 million deal. But on the same token, the 25-year-old is expected to reject their max offer and seek a better deal after the 2016-17 season, when the salary cap increases.
Butler will instead be looking for a short-term offer that would allow him to become a free agent some time after the 2016-17 campaign. There could also be a trade kicker included in Butler’s contract, meaning there’s a very realistic possibility that the Bulls lose him to free agency.
Much of the talk surrounding his free agency centers on Los Angeles, where Butler has been living this summer. Rumors suggest that he’s liked staying in L.A. and could be the big-name free agent that the Lakers have been looking for in recent years.
However, Chicago has the ability to match any offer sheet, meaning, at least in the short term, they can keep their All-Star guard. As Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports, the likely short-term deal for Butler would be a 3-year contract worth $50 million, with an option on the third year that enables him to enter free agency again. Assuming Butler goes this route, he could sign for as much as $190 million through a 5-year deal.
Given the $100 million difference between what the Bulls want to offer Butler and what he could get in two more seasons, it’s more than understandable why he doesn’t want to be locked into anything right now.
If Chicago has any chance of locking him into a 5-year, $90 million contract now, they have to sell him on their ability to win a championship. And this won’t be easy, with head coach Tom Thibodeau now gone, and new coach Fred Hoiberg coming in. Thibodeau was instrumental in helping Butler get to where he is today, so Butler will have to be convinced that Hoiberg is the right man to lead this team in the future.
Another aspect to consider here is if Derrick Rose and Butler can thrive together in the same backcourt. Both are talented, All-Star caliber players, but they didn’t always have great on-court chemistry, given that they had off-shooting nights at the same time on several instances in the 2015 postseason. If they can work out a way to mesh together, it would go a long way towards keeping Butler in Chicago for the long term. Assuming he accepts a short-term deal from the Bulls this summer, perhaps he and Rose can work on building better chemistry in the future.