While the Chicago faithful wait to see what the Bulls front office has brewing for this summer; there is another “under the radar” story that needs some attention. The contract of Jimmy Butler. The former Marquette star has a team-option for the upcoming season at just over two million. I won’t be the first, and I certainly won’t be the last to say that Butler deserves an extension. However, the question is… When?
First off, on the behalf of the Bulls fan-base, Butler had a very disappointing season offensively. Although Butler had a career-high in minutes (38.7), he also had a career-low in FG %; along with struggling behind the arc all year long. We saw a less aggressive player this season as well; despite averaging 12 more minutes this year, Butler only attempted about two more free throws per game. Major improvement is needed there. The fourth-year guard has the ability to be a slasher, but night in and night out he settled for inconsistent jump-shooting. Have we seen the ceiling for Butler offensively? Hope not. Thankfully, there were some positives. Just to name a few… Only averaged 1.5 turnovers per game, and an increase of five points per game.
On the other hand, he is a pest on defense. Butler averaged 1.9 steals per game, good enough for 4th in the whole NBA. No question that number 21 is a top-10 defender in the league. Furthermore, “Jimmy Buckets” was named to the NBA All-Defense 2nd Team earlier today. What makes him valuable is his durability, ability to play major minutes, and can guard superstar players.
Now this is where I think the Bulls can make a good move. Since Butler had a “mediocre” season at best; that allows Chicago to use that as leverage to give him less money. Moreover, the Bulls can use that extra money on another bench player to help on offense. For an example, a player like Vince Carter, Jodie Meeks, or Chris Kaman.
Let’s say that Chicago decides to use the team-option and wait until next year to talk about an extension. This is where it gets interesting. Assuming Butler has a break-out year for the Bulls… What’s next? Now he has the leverage. The dynamic guard who is worth $6-8 million now, will become $9-11 million if he had a successful season. Can Chicago afford the money he would be asking for? Say he walks, and now Chicago is stuck in the same hole they were just in a few years ago. I’m not willing to take that chance. I’d rather be safe than sorry. Butler may not be a superstar, but he is a key piece to Chicago formula. I say extend his contract now. Vote here.
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