On the eve of NBA free agency the Chicago Bulls have tried to get their house in order by offering SF Jimmy Butler the max contract available. The Bulls are reported to have given Butler the option of sticking with the team for the next five years at $18 million per season or a one year offer that would pay him $4.5 and allow him to test free agency next summer when the cap is supposed to go up well beyond what it is now.
The obvious question for Butler is where is the pen, the question for the Bulls is why try and give a player that had one all-star season in a contract year a max deal. The answer to the latter is because the Bulls have no other options. Chicago has spent a few consecutive first round picks on bigger guards that can play the two or the three on the floor. However thus far those picks have yet to show any returns on investment. Doug McDermott didn’t play in the playoffs, and it still remains to be see what Tony Snell’s ceiling is.
Bulter was reportedly scheduled to meet with several teams but canceled those appointments after he was given notification by his agent Happy Walters that the Bulls have offered the maximum allowable salary for a player with his service time returning to the team that drafted him. In the NBA the rules are drawn up so that it’s enticing to keep teams together. If a team is trying to re-sign a player they’re allowed to offer him more than he’d be able to get on the open market. As a matter of fact it’s known as the “Larry Bird Rule” because the Celtics were the first team allowed to offer above the max salary to retain the rights to their own player.
The problem for the Bulls is that Jimmy Butler is not a max player, on the San Antonio Spurs or any other deep rotation team he’d be a role player. Jimmy Butler is a nice complimentary piece on a championship team which the Bulls aren’t. Chicago has little wiggle room here because if they don’t retain the player they’ll be a in a world of trouble trying fill his twenty points a night. In regards to the Bulls, to remove a 20PPG scorer is like taking away a quarter of the nightly output offensively. The Bulls have no idea about Derrick Rose, and Pau Gasol isn’t finding the fountain of youth. The Bulls wanna run an uptempo offense under Fred Hoiberg that can score, and they need all the personnel they can get in order to do so. Jimmy Butler may not be a max player in the way the rule is intended, but here in Chicago he is because he fills a huge role, and for Jimmy Butler that’s a role that’s going to feed his family for generations.