Central Notes: Butler, Cavs, Antetokounmpo

The Bulls are keeping an eye on the Kings this season, since Sacramento owes Chicago its first-round pick if it falls outside the top 10, and for now Chicago’s in line to receive a lottery pick, as our Reverse Standings show. Still, it might be difficult for the Bulls to squeeze even a rookie scale contract onto their ledger for next season, as we detail amid the latest from the Central Division:

  • Several executives from around the NBA believe Jimmy Butler will command the maximum salary in restricted free agency this summer if he keeps up his torrid start to the season, reports Sean Deveney of The Sporting News. Butler and agent Happy Walters were asking for $14MM salaries from the Bulls but would have been willing to settle somewhere between $12.5MM and $13MM during extension talks in October, sources tell Deveney. Instead, the team held firm at $11MM over four years, Deveney hears, echoing a report from K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune, but Chicago appears to have passed up a bargain. The Bulls will court luxury tax trouble if they bring Butler back at the max, with the latest projection putting the tax line at $81MM for next season, according to Deveney, and the Bulls on the hook for nearly $63MM already if Kirk Hinrich picks up his player option.
  • Cavs GM David Griffin originally planned to shuttle Joe Harris between Cleveland and its D-League affiliate this season, according to Chris Haynes of the Northeast Ohio Media Group. Instead, he’s been part of the rotation, complicating matters for Dion Waiters and a suddenly resurgent Mike Miller, as Dave McMenamin of ESPN.com examines.
  • Giannis Antetokounmpo would have been a Mav if owner Mark Cuban had given in to Dallas GM Donnie Nelson‘s desire to draft him 13th overall in 2013, writes Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News. Antetokounmpo fell to the Bucks at No. 15, and the Mavs swung deals that landed them Shane Larkin, whom they eventually traded for Tyson Chandler.
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