The Jimmy Butler odyssey wasn’t really a painful ordeal at all, as the swingman agreed to a five-year deal with the Chicago Bulls, according to sources.
Butler, who turned down a contract in upwards of $40 million before the season and bet on himself, doubled down on the NBA casino, hitting a jackpot worth $95 million and ending speculation that he didn’t want to be in Chicago.
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Butler won the NBA’s Most Improved Player award and set himself up for a big payday after a season in which he averaged 20 points, 5.8 rebounds and 3.3 assists, although the Bulls fell short of their goal of making the NBA Finals.
There was concern about Butler wanting to be in Chicago long-term, speculation he couldn’t play with Derrick Rose and that he wanted to hit unrestricted free agency quicker to the point that he would seek a shorter offer sheet from another franchise that would force the Bulls to match.
The Bulls, in what a team official termed “good business,” extended the never-used mechanism called a “maximum qualifying offer,” which meant opposing teams couldn’t sign Butler to a deal shorter than three years with no options for early termination.
Perhaps it brought Butler back to the table to negotiate with the Bulls quicker than he would’ve done so previously, but it wound up giving the Bulls just enough leverage to get Butler to commit to a max contract — and Butler will have the option to hit the open market after the 2018-19 season, after the salary cap explodes over the next two offseasons.
Butler’s return — along with that of Mike Dunleavy — means the Bulls will largely bring back the same core that fell short in the second round against the Cleveland Cavaliers, as the Cavs are bolstered by the return of Kevin Love, who missed that playoff series with a separated shoulder.
The Bulls are betting on Butler’s upward trajectory and his affirmed commitment to the franchise along with good health from Rose (presumably) and the change at head coach with Fred Hoiberg as reason why they can finally get over the hump to reach the NBA Finals.
Just as Butler bet on himself and won, the Bulls are doing the same thing, hoping it pays off for them.