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Jimmy Butler contract extension: can the Bulls lock him up early?

Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sport

The Bulls have long had their roster set after an active early offseason, so outside of some end-of-bench moves in preparation of training camp (which is far too soon, yikes) there is little going on. However there is something the Bulls need to be mindful of which affects the next few years: a possible early contract-extension for Jimmy Butler.

Zach Lowe at Grantland this week laid out the dilemma between the Bulls/Butler as well as 5 other candidates from Butler's draft class. Teams have until the end of 10/31 to work out these extensions (especially strange given the Bulls season will have had 2 games before then...if I'm Butler I sit out, heh) and there's a lot of uncertainty as to where the marketplace is going:

The NBA is on the verge of signing a new national TV contract that will double the current deal, a windfall that will launch the salary cap into the stratosphere.

One problem: No one knows when, or how, that cap jump will happen. It's at $63 million for this season, and teams are projecting it could leap as high as $80 million for the 2016-17 season - the first under the new TV contract.

Grantland reported in July that the league is considering methods of pinching the onrush of money to avoid a gargantuan one-year jump in the cap level. Teams are speculating that the league might apply future TV money to the 2015-16 cap, nudging it up above the current projection of $66.5 million.

This has huge implications for the Bulls: Butler will make a little over $2m this coming season regardless, but any extension will kick in the season following. That season, 2015/16 the Bulls have already over $63m guaranteed salary committed to 9 players, including Tony Snell's 3rd year option but not including Butler at all. In the context of what the Bulls can are willing to afford, how much money is really there for Butler?

As Lowe points out, there's risks either way with these early extensions. The Bulls got a great deal in signing Noah early and a pretty good one with Gibson. Utah failed to get an early extension done with Gordon Hayward and paid for it when matching a free agent offer sheet the following season. Sometimes restricted free agency isn't a price-inflator either though, as seen by some of the guys who either haven't signed anything or settled for the one-year qualifying offer.

There's ways to guarantee Butler will be a Chicago Bull for at least a couple more seasons, but you could argue now would be the best time to get value out of a deal. 'Buckets' performed pretty awfully on the offensive end last season, to the point where you wonder how much he's really worth. But the Bulls could speculate this was partially due to increased usage (and the difficult high-leverage kind) in the wake of Rose (and later Deng's) absence. Butler also suffered through nagging injuries last season that might've affected his shooting, though the way he plays would make you wonder if that kind of abuse will simply always be part of his career.

Most noticeably, Butler's 3-point shooting plummeted, from 38% to 28%, especially disappointing given that to end the 2012-13 season there were months where he was hitting at a ridiculously high clip. It could be that those hot-shooting stretches were a fluke, or that this past year's cold-shooting was. This interesting work at Nylon Calculus reasons that 3-point shooting is particularly 'noisy' until the player gets to 750 attempts in his career, and Butler is only at 356 so far.

This all means the Bulls are dealing with a lot of unknowns in any upcoming negotiations, something they don't particularly enjoy since they love 'winning' these more than titles. HoopsRumors speculated that Butler could get as much as 4/$42m, and remembering that the Bulls reportedly 'slotted' Deng for the $8m range (and eventually offered $10m) that could make for a match. But Butler, especially last season, wasn't the offensive player Deng was, and since that time they've invested a lot of their assets into Doug McDermott on the wing. Those two can obviously play together, though while the offensive/defense complement make sense there would be a lack of speed and ballhandling (which matters when you see Hinrich will be the closing 2-guard for this very reason). Tony Snell is probably a bust the Bulls can't count on, but if he has an improved second season that's a skillset that could make him be the player that 'forces' Butler out.

Again, though, that's all stuff that's yet to be learned this coming season. What are the Bulls willing to commit now? This will be a story in training camp, starting with the first leaks of how much Butler and his agent are looking for. I'd have to think the Bulls are going to look for a potential bargain, and little more. So this could get contentious, and will most likely drag into the season, at least for 2 games.