As the season has progressed, the Chicago Bulls have seen the development of a new star.
This season, fourth-year guard Jimmy Butler has elevated his game to All-Star status. Butler is averaging career-highs in points per game (22.2), field goal percentage (48.7%), free throw attempts (8.3), rebounds (6.2), and assists (3.2).
Butler’s breakout season has put the Bulls in an uncomfortable position, as he’ll be a restricted free agent after the season. The Bulls tried to lock Butler up this past summer with a four-year, $US40 million contract extension, but Butler reportedly turned it down.
Butler took a huge gamble on himself: a bet that he’d stay healthy, outperform the offer, and stick with a team that’s perennial contender in the Bulls.
It’s obviously paying off.
Not only do Butler’s stats rank among the best of all perimeter players in the NBA, he’s become the Bulls’ best two-way a player — a gritty defender with a diverse offensive game.
He’s showing it all off this season. Last Saturday, en route to 33 points, he posted up a smaller Pelicans player for an easy basket:
He can turn offence into defence:
Monday night, he hit the game-deciding three-pointer in the fourth quarter when the defence collapsed off of him.
Butler credits an offseason of hard work in which he and his friends didn’t have TV or Internet so they’d be forced to work out.
“I’m not surprised he’s improved. The amount he’s improved? I wouldn’t be honest if I say I saw that coming. I thought he was capable of scoring more than he did but to be playing the way that he is, he’s playing great on both sides of the ball.”
The risk for the Bulls is that Butler will outplay what they want to offer him. The Bulls can match any offer Butler receives, but if he gets a maximum contract offer, the Bulls would have to decide whether to match and put themselves into the luxury tax. The Bulls have historically tried to avoid the luxury tax, which penalizes teams for going too high over the salary cap.
A max contract for Butler could add up to the $US13-$US15 million range per season, which over the course of time, would be a considerable leap above the Bulls’ initial offer.
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