The Chicago Bulls wouldn’t be where they are this season without the exponential growth of Jimmy Butler. Butler, the low-risk, high-reward 30th selection in the first round from the 2011 draft pick, has blossomed into one of the best players in the NBA. An All-Star selection, a Most Improved Player Award and the respect of his peers across the league has lofted Butler into an intriguing situation for the off-season as he prepares for life as a restricted free agent. Will he stay, or will he go?
Per Real GM’s Sharns Charania, the Los Angeles Lakers are prepared to build their future with Butler in mind, and they’ve got a max deal waiting on Butler’s table for him to sign:
Outside of Chicago, teams are already preparing possible maximum-salary offer sheets for Butler in free agency, including the Los Angeles Lakers as one of several expected suitors, league sources told RealGM. Even Butler’s college area connection, the Milwaukee Bucks, will have cap space in July. Around the league, there’s a question: How will Chicago handle the inevitable max out of a star player not named Rose?
As it stands right now, the Chicago Bulls are still in the driver’s seat, as Butler’s restricted free agency means that any interested teams would only be able to sign him to an offer sheet. Therefore, the Bulls would have the chance to counter and match any offer. Moreover, Butler went to school up the road in Milwaukee at Marquette, and to see what him and a healthy Derrick Rose could look like for an entire season has to be intriguing. (Could Rose and Butler challenge Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson for the title of best backcourt in the NBA?)
It’s intriguing to think about the Lakers actually acquiring Butler’s services, especially with Kobe Bryant in the backstretch of his career. The last time we saw Kobe try and mentor a newly acquired star player, and…it didn’t end so well. One thing is for sure, Bryant’s respect level for Butler is legit, as it’s something Kobe noticed from the young Bull two seasons ago:
Most of the looks I had tonight were tough shots. Some of the credit goes to the young fellow, Butler did a good job defensively. A lot of that is on me and us, having to try to manufacture something 30 feet from the hoop with a low shot clock is tough.
Kobe’s been known to try and acquire players who have been labeled “Kobe Stoppers” in the past, (See Artest, Ron and Barnes, Matt) but Butler’s shown that he’s capable of more than that. The real question is, can the Lakers offer Butler more than an aging superstar to learn from and a great city to live in to sway him to leave Chicago? Chicago will likely be employing a new head coach next season and will have to acknowledge that they’re willing to give a max deal to a player not named Derrick Rose.
The summer just got that much more interesting.
Eddie Maisonet is the founder and editor emeritus of The Sports Fan Journal. Currently, he serves as an associate editor for ESPN.com. He is an unabashed Russell Westbrook and Barry Switzer apologist, owns over 100 fitteds and snapbacks, and lives by Reggie Jackson’s famous quote, “I am the straw that stirs the drink.”