The Bulls and Jimmy Butler‘s representatives have begun talks toward an extension, as GM Gar Forman acknowledged to reporters, including Nick Friedell of ESPNChicago.com (Twitter link). Forman said the sides will continue to talk as the October 31st deadline approaches. The Bulls would prefer to reach a deal on an extension with the 25-year-old swingman rather than let him hit restricted free agency next summer, assuming the financial terms pass muster, as K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune wrote over the weekend.
Chicago already has about $58MM in commitments for 2015/16, so an extension would further shrink the club’s margin beneath the luxury tax threshold. Still, that concern becomes less pronounced as the salary cap rises, with some projections reportedly indicating the cap will surge to $80MM by the summer of 2016, even though it remains to be seen whether such an increase will be phased in starting next summer. An extension would nonetheless serve as a hedge against future improvement for Butler, presuming the Happy Walters client doesn’t demand too much in the month ahead.
Butler has proven a plus defender, but his offense regressed amid heavy minutes last season, as I noted when I examined him as an extension candidate last month. The wing is an area of weakness for Chicago, which harbors title aspirations, and Butler is the team’s best player at either the shooting guard or small forward positions. I predicted the sides would reach a four-year, $42MM deal before the extension deadline.