Jimmy Butler was optimistic that he’d reach a new deal with the Chicago Bulls, but the Halloween deadline for contract extensions came and went without and agreement between team and played. Undeterred by that turn of events and optimistic about his playing future, Butler says Chicago is where he’ll be long-term.
Via Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times
“People say I’m chasing money when that’s not it — yeah, get your mic closer — that’s not it, because I’m going to be in Chicago,’’ Butler said Saturday. “I’m not worried about it. I say that with a smile on my face because I know that for a fact. We’ll resume [negotiations] in July.’’
“Yeah, [the deadline is] over with, but this is still home, these are still my guys,’’ Butler said. “This is the team I want to be on, this is the city I want to represent. So I’m happy, and I’ll be happy for a long time.’’
The 25 year-old made his regular season debut last night against the Minnesota Timberwolves, showing no ill-effects from stalled contract negotiations or the injured thumb that kept him from Chicago’s first two games. Butler scored a team-high 24 points – including the game-winning free throws with under a second remaining – and played his typical blend of lock-down defense in his team’s 106-105 win against ‘Wolves, frustrating rookie Andrew Wiggins on both ends of the floor.
It was the type of performance that not only lends credence to Butler’s rare two-way talent, but also his worth to the Bulls. He is Chicago’s only plus wing defender, and offers secondary scoring and playmaking ability that looms large for a team so frequently bit by the injury bug. 11 of Butler’s 24 points last night came at the charity stripe – often after being fouled while posting-up – as he functioned as the Bulls’ go-to option while Derrick Rose sat with a sprained ankle.
Butler is right to be confident about his financial future. Alec Burks, a talented but less-established player than Butler, received a four-year, $42 million extension from the Utah Jazz on Friday. Considering that deal plus the league’s dearth of quality young wings, a major payday for Butler is imminent. While it’s unlikely he’ll receive a max-level offer sheet this summer, it would be a surprise if his next deal wasn’t worth $2-$3 million more annually than Burks’.
The potential issue is that Chicago is cash-strapped. The Bulls have approximately $59 million in salary committed for 2015-2016, and Butler’s likely contract would easily push them over the cap – even if the league elects to smooth out the inevitable spike gleaned from its new television contract over multiple seasons.
Other suitors with more flexibility will almost surely offer more than the Bulls are willing to initially. Will Butler sign an outsized offer sheet as a restricted free agent and make the incumbents match it? Or will he take a hometown discount to placate a notoriously penny-pinching owner?