The Chicago Bulls have Jimmy Butler as the main priority in free agency this offseason, as the guard is a restricted free agent on the market and his return on a max contract is likely and this comes as the team could consider a trade with Taj Gibson over trading Joakim Noah after the emergence of Nikola Mirotic alongside Pau Gasol this year.
The Bulls are coming into the summer after hiring Fred Hoiberg to take over as head coach for Tom Thibodeau and the team has numerous issues to deal with in the offseason. The Bulls were defeated by the Cavaliers in the second round of the playoffs despite the Cavs not having Kevin Love and after another early playoff loss, some changes could be coming to the roster. One thing that likely will not change is the presence of Jimmy Butler, who has emerged as one of the best young players in the league.
Butler is set to be a restricted free agent and it comes after he rejected a contract extension earlier in the season from the Bulls. Butler likely made the right choice, as he won the most improved player award this year and set career highs across the board. All of that should get him a major raise and likely a max contract from the Bulls. Jeff Zillgitt of the USA Today spoke with Butler after the season and the guard said that it was his intention to stay with the Bulls.
While there is no guarantee that will happen, the Bulls have the power to match any offers for Butler and Butler said in the interview that he loves "playing with the guys we have" and that he is "happy to be here." The Bulls intention is keeping Butler based on all reports coming out of Chicago and while teams like the Lakers, Celtics, Spurs and Knicks may flirt with an offer sheet, the Bulls are likely to match anything Butler gets. Butler had the chance to sign a deal worth $40 million over four years with the Bulls, but he rejected that offer and now he is line for a max deal at over $60 million.
Butler averaged a career best 20 points and 5.8 rebounds this season and he has improved in each of his four years in the NBA. Butler is now the likely centerpiece player moving forward for the Bulls, as Derrick Rose has dealt with injuries in each of the past three years. Rose is still an MVP type player and a star in the league, but he needs to prove that he can stay healthy for a full season again.
The Bulls may explore trades this summer, as the Chicago Tribune reports that Taj Gibson could come up in trade talks this summer. The team has Joakim Noah and Pau Gasol as the primary front court players and with the emergence of Nikola Mirotic, Gibson could be the odd man out. Signing Butler or other free agents could play into it as well, as Gibson is set to make $8,500,000 and $8,950,000 in the next two seasons, while Mirotic is making $5,543,725 and $5,782,450 the next two years. The team has a glut of forwards and moving Gibson could open things up for the Bulls on the cap.