I guess I'll ask: Is Jimmy Butler being premature with his plans?

I guess I'll ask: Is Jimmy Butler being premature with his plans?

When NBA stars plan and scheme their futures to maximize their earning power, it doesn't register a bleep on the general radar for fans anymore. It's become the norm to position oneself for major paydays, in part due to the realization that an athlete's career is short and sweet, thus possessing a shell life that shouldn't go wasted.

Because of that, a somewhat important question has begun getting ignored. Are they worth it?

For Jimmy Butler, who is positioning himself to sign a deal down the road worth $190 million, it's a perfectly legitimate question. He may be an All-Star, a Top 3 shooting guard, and a Top 5 two-way player right now, but the sample size of his newfound stardom remains fairly small. Butler played 65 regular season games and followed it up with 12 in the playoffs, providing 77 games of All-Star caliber play. That's not a large amount of games, and is potentially a worrying sample size to build up a vision of acquiring $190 million.

Now, Butler's season doesn't unveil his future necessarily. With a more offensive-minded coach in Fred Hoiberg, Butler could see his scoring and efficiency skyrocket, erasing any doubts about the worth of such a contract in a few years. But until that has happened, it might be wise for Butler to further establish himself before taking on dreams of dollar amounts of that magnitude.

Looking at Butler this year, there are no issues in the idea of handing him a max contract based on the current salary cap, worth an estimated $90-95 million. That's already a lot of cheddar. But going the route of opting out after two or three years, to take on a significantly higher salary, is what prime LeBron James does. Butler, for all his improvements, is not on that level. Unless he somehow steps up his game again, and becomes a fully fledged league-wide superstar with All-NBA 1st team nods every year, $190 million is a number that shouldn't be made available for Butler by any team. It'd be almost $70 million more than what Joe Johnson got back in 2010 - and that was over six seasons, not five - and even if the cap is going to bloat more than me after taco night, $190 million is still a tremendously large investment.

What could also potentially be concerning is that his focus seems to have shifted. $48 million, per Adrian Wojnarowski, would have been enough to keep him. This means Butler was willing to accept less than $50 million, and now his end goal is an additional $140 million? The success of Butler was proving people wrong, and feeding on the idea that he was mostly ignored around the league. Losing that motivation, or replacing it with monetary goals, might not field the same results, which begs the question: Is he going to be a Bull in a few years?

A frequent crippling element of team building is locking players up to deals that leaves the team unable to move financially. The Bulls always dread this, rightfully so, and in Butler's case they'd be put in a tough spot. Even if he remains an All-Star level player, but isn't a top tier guy, losing him would hurt, badly. But overpaying him by a drastic amount, and potentially seeing his production decline, will leave them in no man's land for years to come.

Adding to the worry is the fact that Butler will be 26 when the season rolls around. If he decides to stick around Chicago, but only on a bigger deal after opting out by 2017, the Bulls would pay him these big bucks from age 28 to 33. That will by no means be an easy call for them. Butler's prime is now, not two years away. Even if he maintains a high standard in his 30's, you're still gambling with salary numbers of downright insane value.

The problem, as always, is that someone will always mess it up for others. Some team out there will offer Butler a ridiculous contract if he opts out in 2017, and the Bulls would be facing losing him for nothing, or position themselves for salary hell. Additionally, if they wanted to trade Butler by 2016 due to his demands, his value will decline drastically due to his pending free agency and monetary demands being known around the league.

The best possible outcome for the Bulls is Butler signing a five-year deal with no options this summer. It'd keep him retained during his prime years (age 26 to 31), they'd avoid the salary-bloated cap spike on his contract, and it would be easier to stomach letting him go by 2020 if some teams offers him a ridiculous amount of money, knowing full well his best years were behind him for the most part.

But what the Bulls want is, ironically, the most unrealistic part of this piece. The odds of Butler accepting a five-year deal now, and leaving the potential of many more millions at the door, are low.

The most likely scenario? Butler signs a three-year offer sheet with Orlando, the Bulls match, and come 2018 both have decisions to make.

Why Orlando? Because if on the off-chance the Bulls doesn't match, and Butler is all about the green, going to Florida where there is no state income tax and a team standing by with a herd of cheap talent, is an optimal situation.

The only thing that's for certain right now, is that the Bulls will be forced to take on a long-term view of the Butler situation this summer. Maybe even more than they prepared to do initially.

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  • Hypothetical question for Bulls fans, speaking of max contracts, would you rather have Jimmy Butler or Draymond Green?

    It will be interesting to see how this plays out, who gets more money, I guess that Jimmy has more years in the league so his max is higher. Not sure about Greens status as a second round pick.

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    This the first SANE article I've read on Butler. Look, Butler is a good player - maybe very good. But I was already thinking the last 2 years of a 90 million max contract could be a bad deal for the Bulls.

    Offer him 3 year, 50 million, no options. If he takes it, great, everyone is happy. If not, offer him the 1 year 4.4 million and either let him walk afterwards, or trade him this year. The money has just gotten NUTS.

  • Butler sucked the season before this, so I get why the Bulls didn't sign him to a MAX deal. But now I wish they had.

  • Butler is worth a max contract under the current structure. I'd lean toward not granting him the giant new max contract that's approaching unless he takes a further leap from what we saw this season. Sounds kind of silly to me. An injury could destroy his earning power between now and when he'd sign that contract. Lock up close to 100 million now and you're set. It's very disheartening if the rumors are true that Butler wants to go to LA. I guess he doesn't bleed Bulls' red after all. The man appears to have been seduced by those bright lights.

  • In reply to Hunter:

    If Butler truly does not want to be in Chicago, then the money is really a non-issue; some team will be willing to make a trade regardless of weather he's working under the last year of his rookie contract, a 3-year deal or a 5 year max. FO needs to get a handle on his true intentions, and be prepared to walk away with some assets of value.

    It's almost hard to believe a guy that a few months ago was all but guaranteeing playing in Chicago long-term, has since been seduced by the bright lights of LA and the company of Dirk Diggler.

    Whatever...I'm not losing any sleep over it.

  • Perhaps the Bulls FO may have more leverage in further encouraging Jimmy to stay with them by using a 'never before used by any team' contract option called a Maximum Qualifying Offer. Thanks to Mark Deek's article below, that option is further explained.


  • In reply to EDouble:

    that is a good article explaining the use of the MQO. It still leaves the bulls with a tough choice, use the MQO thus locking themselves into paying Butler the absolute max for 5 years if he decides to stay or offering him his preferred deal of 3 years with an opt out after 2. It does however, prevent another team from offering him his preferred deal, thus delaying his free agency to the summer of 2018 when the cap is actually projected to recede somewhat from the previous summer if he decides to leave.

    Also, if you follow one of the links after that article you can participate in a fan poll on which free agents are worth the max.

    The fans only think that 4 guys are worth it, Lebron, Gasol(Mark, not the SOL), Aldridge and Leonard.

    Leonard has the weakest support at 56/44. Jimmy Butler is the next closest guy at 46/54. At least 4% of the people don't think that Lebron is a max guy. 76% don't think that either Love or Deandre Jordan are max players, over 80% voted against Draymond Green, while 92% voted against Brook Lopez and 94% against Dragic.

    It appears that the fans are even more niggardly than the owners. They don't seem to realize how much money is out there sloshing around, and that the very nature of free agency leads to most players being paid more than they are "worth".

  • In reply to BigWay:

    First, thanks for using the word "niggardly", I agree with it 100% but I didnt have to say it so now it's all on you!!

    But I think fans just would rather see the "max" money given to lower-paid guys. I suggested in the other thread that owners might well opt out of the CBA after 2016-17 to do just that.

    Why should Rose get more than the $20 million he's getting when Brooks gets the minimum of $1 million? Rose sure as fuck wasn't worth 20 times what Brooks was this season.

    Lower the max, and give more money to the minimum salary guys and Euros who are first round picks but worth far more than the Rookie Scale pays them.

    For example, your boy Saric won't be here for two more years, because like Mirotic he can only make about $2 million a year because of the rookie scale, they have to wait three years to come to the NBA because they can make more in Europe.

    Why not "limit" the max players to $25 million a year instead of $30 million, and let a team spend the other $5 million buying out Mirotic's (or Saric's) contract to get them here earlier?

    I could be wrong, but I think fans would prefer the players get the same 50% of the total pie if the minimum and MLE guys got more and the "max" guys got less.

  • I don't really think Butler is worth a max but I realize the situation the bulls are in. They really have to try and keep him or we're garbage next year period. There's still the possibility that Rose could get injured out for the season again ( knock on wood ) who knows what condition Noah will be in, Taj's ankle is finished, we still have another year of Hinrich, Gasol will be 36 next year and could easily decline, McDermott may turn out to be a bust, and Dunleavy could be gone. Obviously I'm looking at all the worse case scenarios but given the Bulls luck in recent years it's not out of the realm of possibility. In fact it's closer to reality than most fans can even bring themselves to believe. Jimmy Butler is really the only healthy consistent contributor on the team and to lose him would be devastating. In a way this like Luol Deng all over again only Butler will be more expensive to keep. Can't help but feel like the Bulls are just going in circles. smdh

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    In reply to ajaychitown:

    Good points, but Butler is a few years younger then Deng before we shipped him to Cleveland. Plus Thibbs only got to beat on Butler for a couple years. I believe 2 of butlers years he was w Deng

  • His prime is now and not two years away? Most players are better at 28 than 26, and it's not even close when you look at the numbers.

  • The max contract available now is worth the same as the max contract after the cap explodes, as far as market value from the team perspective. It's not like after the cap jumps up players who were worth 12 million will still be worth 12 million; they'll be 18 million dollar players, everyone's value from the team perspective will go up. That's the way you have to look at it, not from the perspective of raw dollars and what players make now or what they made in the past.

  • The Bulls will never do this because they don't have the guts or vision and they believe in the core too much but if I were the Bulls, I would trade Jimmy Butler. Butler is angling himself for max max money that you would give only an elite player. Butler is an All-star player but not elite.

    For me, I trade Joakim Noah and Jimmy Butler to the Knicks for #4 pick, Tim Hardaway Jr. and Cole Aldridge. This trade will give Jackson the big man (Noah) and #2 scorer (Butler) that they are looking for. Noah and Butler would also thrust the Knicks back into the Eastern conference playoffs.

    For the Bulls, this trade opens up opportunities on the FA market and keeps this team flexible going forward. With the extra money, I take a shot at Kris Middleton. I was very impressed with his game in the playoffs and think he would be a better #2 guy with Rose than Butler. I think you can get Middleton for 12-14M/year offer too. I think you can also re-sign Dunleavy for another year or two.

    With the #4 pick, I could go either with Russell, Kristaps or Winslow. Russell would be my pick as he presents a viable post-Derrick Rose option. But if he's unavailable, I might go Winslow because he would be Jimmy Butler lite. With #22 pick - I pick up a PG who can play behind Rose and run with the ball.

    Bottomline: I think a team of Rose, Gasol, Mirotic, Gibson, Middleton, Russell/Winslow, PG draft pick, McDermott, Hardaway Jr. Aldridge provides the Bulls with lots of options, depth, and agility to play different types of ball. It also gives Hoiberg two less big egos to console.

    Go ahead - fire away... let me know why this sucks...

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