Taj Gibson knows all about Jimmy Butler's situation. Two years ago, a Gibson extension looked unlikely heading into the Oct. 31 deadline before the big man inked a deal AFTER the Bulls beat the Kings, just beating the buzzer on the deadline. Could history repeat itself with Butler?
Right now, the general consensus is that the Bulls and Butler won't get a deal done. K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune reported two days ago that a $4 million annual gap has narrowed, but pessimism remained a deal would get done. Johnson has since followed up with this Friday morning:
Bulls are going to have to increase offer if Butler extension gets done by tonight's deadline. Remember: Bulls can match next summer too.— K.C. Johnson (@KCJHoop) October 31, 2014
The same kind of pessimism is being shared by many of the national guys. David Aldridge of NBA.com said Thursday afternoon an extension for Butler was "increasingly unlikely," while ESPN's Marc Stein also said a deal "appeared unlikely" as of Thursday night. Sam Amick of USA TODAY said Friday that Butler's camp doesn't see a deal getting done. On the other side of the coin, Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders claims the sides aren't far apart at all and that the gap is more of the "structure" of the deal than money, although I'm not sure I completely buy that considering Johnson says the sides were $2.5 million apart last night.
I've already gone through many of the reasons why Butler's value is hard to gauge. He's a dynamite defensive player with nice offensive potential, although it's just unclear what that offensive ceiling is. He was ridiculously efficient in the preseason without any semblance of a jump shot before getting hurt, but will that carry over to the regular season and postseason when he returns to the court? That remains to be seen, and if a deal is reached, I would assume there will be offensive-based incentives in there.
Throwing another wrench into this is the deal Alec Burks just got from the Jazz, reportedly between $42-45m.
Burks is a talented offensive player with upside, but to me, it's hard to argue that he's a more impactful player than Butler at this point. With Burks' deal in mind, in addition to the Gordon Hayward and Chandler Parsons contracts I've referenced before, I can't imagine Butler signing for anything less than $12 million a year.
It would be great if the Bulls and Butler reach an agreement, but it's not the end of the world if they don't. If Butler reaches restricted free agency and is good enough to fetch a max deal or something close to it, I'm thinking the Bulls would match it. Some have argued that it won't even take a big year to fetch a max deal because of the dearth of quality two-way wings, which could make the decision much more difficult depending on how the Bulls' season plays out. But maybe if he's just okay and not really damn good, the Bulls could ink him on a reasonable deal or potentially look at other options.
The Bulls would lose some of their precious flexibility if they matched a Butler max rather than signing him now. Signing him now or matching a max later would have no effect on cap space, because the Bulls would have none either way. Matching a max could potentially have tax ramifications and what kind of exceptions/trades the Bulls could use moving forward, but it's impossible to tell now without having any idea of how much the cap will go up. Joakim Noah's next contract in two offseasons is also surely on the minds of Bulls brass, but again, it's hard to know how these potential deals would affect the Bulls' flexibility without knowing just what the cap will be.
I've been skeptical on a Butler extension all offseason, and I haven't seen much to think otherwise. I'll be happy if it's Gibson Part Deux, but I won't be upset if no deal is reached, because Butler still could be a Bull for a long time.