Jimmy Butler said he wanted to stay with the Bulls. Multiple times. But then this summer came the reports that he wanted a shorter deal, not the five years the Bulls could offer. Then came the “he wants to go to the Lakers” talk. All of the stuff after the season sounded like an agent trying to gain leverage and get his star a shorter contract (so he could tap into the flood of television money about to hit the NBA sooner)
The Bulls on Monday did exactly what everyone expected them to do: Put huge wads of cash on the table. As in five years, $90 million. From Eric Pincus of BasketballInsiders.com.
A max qualifying offer is a rarely-used part of the NBA free agency machinery that essentially offers a maximum contract to a player. It is not binding, much like the regular qualifying offer. Butler doesn’t have to sign it, he can go solicit offers from other teams.
What it does mean is that no other team (say, the Lakers) can offer Butler less than three years. (Before they fewest they could offer was two years, the one year reports were erroneous).
Once free agency opens July 1, the Bulls will negotiate with Butler about a max contract, and if there would be any options in it (for example, allowing Butler to opt out in two or three years).
If the Lakers — or any other team — offers a three-year contract, the Bulls still have the right to match it, because Butler is a restricted free agent.
The fastest way for Butler to become a free agent is to just play for the basic qualifying offer of just more than $4 million — and leave $86 million in guaranteed cash on the table. That isn’t just life-changing money, that’s generational changing money for the Butler family. It’s too much just to walk away from.
Maybe the Bulls give him an opt out after three years.
The bottom line is this: Butler is going to be a Bull next season. And he’s going to get PAID.