It's becoming clearer by the minute that the smoke surrounding Jimmy Butler is looking more like truth and not just conjecture as the NBA Draft approaches.
The Bulls routinely say they'll take phone calls from teams about Butler's availability around this time and at the trade deadline but this time around, multiple sources tell CSNChicago.com the Bulls are doing more than listening: they're shopping Butler to many teams.
It appears the Bulls have made the decision to try to jumpstart their rebuilding process and see what the best offer is for Butler as opposed to just gauging his value.
The Boston Celtics have always been fond of Butler and have the assets the Bulls in theory would be attracted to in terms of multiple draft picks and affordable contracts on the current roster. The Cleveland Cavaliers seemed to be on the Bulls' doorstep before abruptly ending their partnership with GM David Griffin Monday evening.
On the surface they would appear to be the favorites as the Phoenix Suns have been "doing due diligence," according to league sources. And the Denver Nuggets were on the periphery at the trade deadline, acquiring about Butler.
In other words, the Bulls will have no shortage of offers, meaning this is a trade they'll have to get right. They're in a different position than the Indiana Pacers as Paul George has made it known he wants out and plans to become a Los Angeles Laker. But Butler has made it known he wants to stay in Chicago and doesn't want to be moved, according to sources close to the Bulls swingman.
But with the Bulls' desire to free head coach Fred Hoiberg of Butler due to their lack of a fruitful relationship and belief he can improve in his third year, this is the road the franchise is choosing to walk down.
[BULLSTALK PODCAST: Are Butler's days in Chicago numbered?]
The Bulls were rebuffed on an offer to the Celtics for the third pick straight-up, but bringing the Cavaliers to the table could increase the quality of offers for Butler, who would be eligible for a deal in the $40 million range annually if he makes another All-NBA team next season.
One would think the Bulls' reluctance at paying a contract that large on a team that will continue to be in the middle of the draft plays a part in their decision.
As one league executive texted last night, "It's either Boston or Cleveland but he's going."
As it appears Butler's surprising rise will have an abrupt ending, seemingly sooner rather than later.