Jimmy Butler is betting on himself again, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports. Butler reportedly plans on rejecting a long-term offer from the Bulls that could be worth as much as $90 million over five years to pursue short-term offer sheets from other teams.
As a restricted free agent, the Bulls have the right to match any contract Butler is offered. He's almost certainly not playing anywhere but Chicago for the next two seasons. Signing a shorter deal now to become an unrestricted free agent after the 2016-17 season is simply the most lucrative way for Butler to maximize his career earnings. If the salary jumps like expected over the next two seasons, Butler could be in line for a five-year, $190 million contract.
Wojnarowski names the Lakers specifically as a team that interests Butler. Jimmy has been spending his summer in LA hanging out with Mark Walhberg, and who knows, might just be sick of living in the Polar Vortex for five months a year. Joakim Noah might call that "Hollywood as hell" but consecutive weeks of below 0-degree temperatures will have that effect on a young man.
Wojnarowski also gives some credence to previous reports of a Butler-Derrick Rose feud first outlined by Dan Bernstein. In between bullying multiple women in the Chicago media for no apparent reason, Bernstein reported there was tension between Butler and Rose in Game 6 of the Bulls' second round playoff series loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Rose was increasingly passive offensively in the second half, attempting just four shots while Butler attempted 12 over the final two quarters.
Bernstein has a history of harboring an anti-Rose agenda, and Butler and Rose have certainly showed no outward signs of a falling out. Still, it's worth noting that Wojnarowski wrote Butler and Rose "need to come to a greater understanding about how to best co-exist on the floor." There's a lot left open for interpretation there.
Wojnarowski also notes Butler needs to sold on the Bulls' future under Fred Hoiberg. While there's some language in this report that might scare Bulls fans, Butler's desire to sign a shorter deal is mostly about getting as much money as possible while he's still able to play basketball. Most things about money and this is no different.
At this point, I don't think this is something to get distressed over just yet. Jimmy can go sign a three-year offer sheet for $50 million
and a player option in the final year *(see below), but he'll still be on the Bulls the next two seasons as long as they decide to match it. And why wouldn't they?
Butler's intention to turn down a deal worth as much as five years, $90 million only means that he believes he can play at a high enough level to command a max deal in 2017. If he plays at that level for the next two seasons, it's going to mean great things for the Bulls. It also means that he could have some down years at the end of a five-year deal in 2017 as he ages, but now we're worrying about the 2020-21 season, and well, who knows what the world will look like at that point. I'm not going to get too concerned about it right now while we're all still such young and vibrant people.
Jimmy has turned the Bulls before, of course. He rejected an offer believed to be for more than $10 million annually over four seasons before the 2014-15 season started. It seemed like a fair deal coming off a season in which Butler averaged 13 points per game on under 40 percent shooting from the field and under 30 percent shooting from three-point range, but his gamble on himself was admirable and it certainly paid off. Butler became a first time All-Star, a 20 point per game scorer and the Most Improved Player award winner this past season, and now he's rolling his bet forward one more time.
Just think: Butler could have been making $10 million a year in the 2017-18 season had he signed Chicago's initial offer. If he pulls this off, he's going to be making $38 million. And that's just one year. He's could earn, like, $240 million over the next seven years instead of $40 million over the next four. That's incredible, and we should all be rooting for Butler in this scenario. After all, the Bulls will always be able to pay him more money (assuming certain CBA rules hold in the next negotiation) than any other team. If he's worth $190 million in 2017, the Bulls should just give it to him.
The important thing here is that while Butler is doing all he can to maximize his future earnings, the Bulls have all the power here, at least for the next two seasons. Even if there's a report that suggests Butler hopes the Bulls don't match an offer sheet ... they should just match it anyway. He isn't getting $190 million in 2017 unless he plays like an All-Star for two more seasons. Eric Gordon once tried this with the Suns, and it didn't work out for him, either.
Which is to say: go Jimmy. Get your damn money and enjoy every penny of it. I just hope all of it is coming from the deep pockets of Jerry Reinsdorf. At this point, there's little reason to worry that won't be the case.
*Update from Mark Deeks: Per cap rules, if the Bulls offer Butler a maximum qualifying offer (five years, full max salary, no bonuses, no options) Butler can't get an offer sheet with a player option in the third year, it has to be at minimum 3 non-option years.