The Chicago Bulls have toyed with the idea of trading All-Star shooting guard Jimmy Butler for some time, but evidently team president John Paxson and general manager Gar Forman are done gauging Butler’s market value.
According to ESPN’s Zach Lowe, the Bulls have reportedly taken Butler “off the market for now,” following speculation that Chicago was open to moving the 26-year-old to either the Boston Celtics or Minnesota Timberwolves on draft night last month.
With “for now” being the operative phrase, it’s still very possible the Bulls complete a massive overhaul of their entire roster and fully kick-start a rebuilding process by moving their best player.
A Butler trade would certainly follow suit with the rest of Chicago’s moves early in the offseason.
Since their eight-year streak of postseason appearances was snapped, the Bulls have been one of the most aggressive teams working the trade market as well as free agency. Last month they were open to not only moving Butler, but even veteran power forward Taj Gibson, who owns an expiring $8.9 million contract.
Chicago also parted with former league MVP Derrick Rose before the draft, sending the point guard to the New York Knicks for center Robin Lopez, point guard Jose Calderon, and second-year guard Jerian Grant. And once free agency began the Bulls quickly signed veteran point guard Rajon Rondo, who led the NBA in assists per game last season, and then cleared cap space to sign three-time champion and now former Miami Heat star Dwyane Wade.
Whether it’s the Celtics, Timberwolves, or any other team, Butler’s appeal lies in both his incredible abilities and talents on the court as well as his “bargain” contract under the NBA’s new salary cap.
Now a two-time All-Star and coming off his best statistical season with 20.9 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 4.3 assists per game, Butler’s one of the league’s best two-way players. He’s capable of guarding both guard positions, most small forwards, and has the strength to grapple with undersized power forwards. For his career Butler’s averaged 1.4 steals per game and a 104 defensive rating.
And any team that happens to land Butler will love his contract just as much as his statistical production. Butler’s scheduled to make $16.4 million next season, $17.5 million in 2017-18, and $18.6 million in 2018-19, before he owns a player option for the subsequent season that would pay him $19.8 million.
The salary figures are daunting, but not under the league’s new cap. NBA teams saw their caps climb to $94 million this summer after the soft threshold was $72 million last season. The bump saw even middle-tier free agents like Memphis Grizzlies point guard Mike Conley ink massive new contracts. According to Spotrac, Conley joins Kevin Durant, James Harden, and Al Horford as the highest-paid players in the league next season at $26.5 million.
Butler sits way back as the 35th highest-paid player next season.