The Bulls fully expect to re-sign Jimmy Butler to a new maximum-salary deal in the summer, and they accept that the contract would put the club in position to pay the luxury tax, reports David Haugh of the Chicago Tribune. Bulls officials are planning a “proactive approach” to have Butler put pen to paper with them before he entertains offers from other clubs in restricted free agency, according to Haugh. Butler will be eligible for a starting salary worth about 25% of next season’s salary cap, unless he wins the MVP and triggers the Derrick Rose Rule, which would allow him about 30% of the cap. The latest league projection indicates that the 25% max will come in at $15.5MM, though that figure won’t be set in stone until July.
Some described the negotiations between Butler and the Bulls this past fall as contentious, according to Haugh, but Butler made it clear in his remarks after passing on an extension offer that reportedly would have entailed $11MM salaries that he’s intent on a long-term future in Chicago. The 25-year-old swingman has since embarked on a career year, but fellow Tribune scribe K.C. Johnson wrote in December that it would be surprising if the Bulls didn’t match any offer that Butler was to receive this summer, seemingly indicating the team’s willingness to pay the max one way or another.
Several executives from around the NBA told Sean Deveney of The Sporting News last month that they believed that Butler would command the max if he kept up his strong start to the season. Butler continues to showcase remarkable gains on the offensive end, averaging 21.7 points per game and 47.8% shooting after putting up 13.1 PPG and 39.7% shooting last season. Butler and agent Happy Walters asked for $14MM a year in extension talks but would have been willing to settle for between $12.5 and $13MM, according to Deveney, so it’s becoming clear that Chicago cost itself when the sides didn’t close a deal.
The former 30th overall pick went from unranked in the first edition of the Hoops Rumors Free Agent Power Rankings, published shortly after the season began, to No. 5 on the latest list, which came out about a month ago. He’s maintained the strong defense that’s long been his hallmark and put up a 22.3 PER that’s the 14th-best mark in the league, according to Basketball-Reference.
Chicago already has nearly $60.2MM in commitments for seven players next season, not counting a player option of almost $2.855MM for Kirk Hinrich. The luxury tax line is projected to come in around $81MM, as Deveney also wrote, so while it seems conceivable that the Bulls could avoid becoming a taxpayer, it would be difficult. The Bulls have been eyeing a lucrative commitment to Butler since the Luol Deng trade a year ago, Haugh writes, noting that the swap helped the team avoid the tax last season and this season, which would have set up Chicago for repeat-offender tax penalties.