The Chicago Bulls are likely bringing back Jimmy Butler as a free agent on a max contract, as he will be in restricted free agency this summer and teams like the Lakers and Knicks are expected to chase him and this comes as the Bulls are debating the future of Tom Thibodeau, as reports say the team could look at firing the coach or making a trade this offseason.
The Bulls ended their season with a playoffs loss to the Cavaliers and now the future of the team is a bit in flux. According to Marc Stein at ESPN, the Bulls have not yet decided what they will do about Thibodeau yet, as he has another year left on his contract. Stein writes that the Bulls may wait for the open jobs on the market to fill up before firing or trying to trade Thibodeau. There has been plenty of friction between Thibodeau and the front office and now it looks like the two sides will split eventually.
Reports came out last week that Thibodeau could consider sitting out next year over helping the Bulls in a trade, but so far that is just speculation. Thibodeau was mentioned as an option for the Magic head coaching job, but that looks like it's about to be taken by Scott Skiles. The Pelicans also could be an option, but any move would require the Bulls to take action first. Thibodeau is known as a tough coach and reports over the past couple years have some players feeling that he pushes too hard in practice and can be too tough at times.
The situation is comparable to Jim Harbaugh in the NFL and that could lead to Thibodeau sitting out for the year depending on how things develop. Thibodeau has had his issues with Gar Forman and John Paxson and so far all offseason the signs point to Thibodeau being pushed out or pushed aside eventually this offseason. The Bulls reportedly are interested in Fred Hoiberg from Iowa State, but so far he has not shown a willingness to make the NBA jump.
Jimmy Butler reportedly wants to stay with the Bulls and this comes as he is set to hit restricted free agency. Butler made a smart move pushing aside the last contract extension offer from the Bulls, as he was named the most improved player this year and is in line for a massive contract. According to the Chicago Tribune, Butler said that "this is a place for me", referring to Chicago and that he is "happy to be here." The Lakers are expected to offer him a max contract, but the report says that the Bulls plan on matching any offers.
Butler had a career season this year and ended up averaging 20 points and six rebounds with three assists per game. Butler has pushed his numbers up steadily each season and he broke out this year after averaging 13 points last season. Butler was one of the main reasons the Bulls were successful, as they dealt with numerous injuries, but he ended up playing in 65 games this season and averaging the most rebounds, points and assists per game in his career.