Michael Walton II writes about the Chicago Bulls and the NBA for We Are Regal Radio.
Michael is a student, freelance writer and high school basketball scout based in Chicago. He’s previously been published in TrueStar Magazine, the Redeye Chicago and thelyricallab.com.
In this day and age I have gotten use to how the off-season goes for the Chicago Bulls. There is an awful lot of smoke screening of intentions and a bunch of optimism followed by a few low-key moves.
This year there has been nothing but talk of new Chicago Bulls head coach Fred Hoiberg. The biggest addition to the Bulls this year will be no doubt the change in culture that Hoiberg provides.
Along with being a more laid-back coach, he brings an intriguing pace-and-space element to a Bulls team that underachieved badly on defense this past season.
Nevertheless, for a team in the Chicago’s contending position there are not many moves to be made. But as always there are some storylines that could have a huge impact on this new Bulls regime.
“My favorite player Butler, and I gotta butler..”– Chief Keef
The entire talk of the Chicago Bulls off-season has (rightfully) been the re-signing of breakout star Jimmy Butler, which came to fruition Wednesday afternoon with news of his agreeing with the team to a max extension that will be worth upwards of $95 million.
By now most people know the story of the Bulls’ newest franchise piece. Butler is a kid from very humble beginnings. After a great career at Marquette he was drafted by the Bulls with the last pick in the first round of the 2011 NBA Draft.
After proving that he already an elite perimeter defender, he continued to work on his offensive game. He has increased his scoring average every season in the league, including this years impressive leap to 20 points per game.
Now coming off of a rookie contract and a season where he was an all-star (and won the league’s Most Improved Player award) Butler was reasonably looking for a big payday. Every team with cap-space planned to offer Butler a max-deal, but there were rumors of him seeking a one-year deal from the Los Angeles Lakers.
The Lakers have been aggressively pursuing Butler, part of their plan to aggressively pursue everyone not tied down by an NBA contract currently, but his entire free agency was put on hold after the Bulls first extended a five-year, $90 million offer.
Yes, under the same locker room roof Butler and Rose could continue their rumored animosity over who’s team the Bulls are, but Hoiberg will help squash that by showing that there can be enough shots for everyone if they play his way above all.
And while I can see how Butler might at some point wanted to leave badly with his favorite coach gone, taking the one-year qualifying-offer from the Bulls would have resulted in about a $13 million pay-cut for Butler next season alone, with the possibility of many more millions missed in later years say if he suffered a serious injury soon.
You never know what can happen over a grueling 82 game season, especially when you are on a team that will play deep into the postseason. If Butler took that qualifying offer he would have been playing for way below market value while helping the Bulls make a title run and essentially auditioning for his next team. It would be a huge risk to take just to get out of Chicago.
If I was Jimmy’s agent I would say: “You could do worse than a five-year, $90 million deal from a team in a major city with a rabid fan base and a solid core, not to mention a new invigorating coach.”
Frontcourt Faux Paux?
Jerry Reinsdorf runs a tight, albeit boring ship. And for years he has structured the team to avoid the luxury tax that usually becomes a factor for contending teams.
The Bulls offer max-deals to the players they absolutely have to, and all other players are usually veterans with mid-tier deals or rookie contracts. The players on the Bulls roster that fit into that max-territory are Derrick Rose, and soon Jimmy Butler. After that the next highest-paid players will be Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson, Pau Gasol, and then Nikola Mirotic.
Noah, Gibson, Gasol, and Mirotic amount to over a $130 million in guaranteed money over the next year or two. In layman’s terms: that is a lot of guaranteed money considering that one ore more of these players simply won’t get as many minutes as they should.
And just when you thought the Bulls frontcourt couldn’t get anymore crowded, they draft Bobby Portis. However, I don’t blame the Bulls for the Portis pick. It is not often that a lottery talent falls to you at the 22nd pick.
Due to Portis’s versatility (especially on offense) I expect him to see the floor. Big men who can play D and shoot three-pointers are pretty much god damn unicorns in the NBA, and Hoiberg definitely had something to do with this pick.
The only conceivable way for the Bulls to eliminate this logjam of front court players is to explore trade options for whichever one of these players gets the most interest. I know the Bulls would hate to trade a fan favorite like Noah or Gibson, but both players struggled with injuries this past season.
The regression in their play was not necessarily permanent, but new skipper Fred Hoiberg might not be willing to take the wait-and-see approach with Portis now in tow. Gasol probably won’t generate much interest because of his age, and Mirotic is too key in Hoiberg’s system and on to the Bulls future.
Expect the Bulls to make a move with one of their front court players soon. I may be jumping the gun in saying that I hope the Bulls getting Terrence Ross rumors are true, but if that is the case then let the friggin’ gun be jumped already.
Salty Athlete of the Week: LeBron James
Thankfully, Dunleavy Jr. had already decided he wanted to stay with the Bulls, and Wednesday he, along with Butler, re-upped with Chicago for three-years and just under $15 million. So out of all the flavors, LeBron was only left with salt to choose.
So this lifelong Bulls fan would like to take some time out to say to James….YOU WILL NEVER GET SWAGMASTER DUNLEAVY JR.
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