The Bulls are due some changes this offseason after they failed to make the playoffs in Fred Holberg’s first year as head coach. Pau Gasol will likely decline his player option for 2016-17 and become a free agent, and Joakim Noah will become an unrestricted free agent for the first time in his career, all of which he’s spent in Chicago. Derrick Rose is in the final year of his contract, too, and with the exploding salary cap next summer another team might be willing to offer him a max deal. Not only that, but general manager Gar Forman said last month that “we have to explore all options.”
According K.C. Johnson at the Chicago Tribune, sources said Forman’s comments didn’t sit well with do-it-all guard Jimmy Butler. Butler signed a five-year, $92.3 million deal last summer after winning the Most Improved Player for the 2014-15 season. This came after an insulting, to him, four-year, $44 million extension offer the previous summer. He obviously earned his max deal after making his first All-Star team that year, and he made the team again this past season. But the team didn’t make the postseason this year, and there were rumors of bickering between the team and Butler, who believes his new deal comes with an increased leadership presence in the locker room.
Butler appeared to call out the new head coach at one point, and the transition from stud 3&D wing to the team leader and offensive focal point wasn’t very smooth. Remember, the Celtics put together a package for Butler at the trade deadline last year, so you know the Bulls were at least entertaining offers, which goes along with Forman’s comments last month.
And Butler still might bear some ill will toward Forman after his rookie extension was delayed until the next summer when he had become an All-Star and was going to be in the max contract range from other suitors as a restricted free agent.
As Johnson notes in the piece, that max deal Butler signed came with a 5 percent trade kicker. Normally for max deals of that size, the trade kicker is closer to 15 percent, which is why some think Butler might be available as we come up on the draft (June 23).
It’s also worth mentioning that Butler’s backcourt parter, Derrick Rose, has only one year left on his deal before hitting the open market, too. Johnson says the Bulls will target a point guard in the draft for the second straight year. The only reason they didn’t select one with their top pick last season was Bobby Portis fell to them at No. 22.
The absence of Rose in 2017-18, if he leaves in free agency the summer before, could clear the way for Jimmy to assume even more of a leadership role. Plus, despite all the trade chatter both in February and leading up to next month’s draft, the Bulls remain committed enough to Butler that it’ll take a big offer to pry him lose. From the Tribune:
But in the Bulls’ early organizational meetings to shape offseason strategy, little changed from the February trade deadline regarding Butler, sources said. That means it would take a significant offer involving at least one high-profile player and multiple first-round picks to pry him loose.
That doesn’t mean Butler is off the table, just that it’ll take a lot to get him. That’s a remarkable change from last summer when they inked him to a max deal and he seemed untouchable. But there were a lot of growing paints since he signed that deal, and with the new coach, a hobbled former leader (Joakim Noah), and their first season out of the playoffs since before Vinny Del Negro was patrolling the sidelines, things have changed. Just how much, we’ll see play out over the next month as teams prepare for free agency and the draft.
(Via Chicago Tribune)