Report: Jimmy Butler postpones meetings with other teams after max qualifying offer from Bulls

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Jimmy Butler has some things to think over.

His agent was clearly trying to leverage his client for a shorter contract — so he could more quickly tap into the flood of television money that will engulf the NBA starting next summer — but the Bulls want to lock down a core piece for a long time. So the Bulls have given Butler a max qualifying offer — if he takes it, he gets five-years, $90 million — and a regular qualifying offer of one-year, $4.5 million. That means no other team can offer Butler fewer than three years, and the Bulls have the right to match any offer.

In the wake of this, Butler has changed his free agency first steps, reports Chris Broussard at ESPN.

The Chicago Bulls offered Jimmy Butler a maximum five-year, $90 million contract Monday, leading the restricted free agent to postpone meetings with several other teams as he decides how many years to re-sign with the Bulls for, sources said….

After receiving the max offer Monday, Butler postponed meetings with the Los Angeles Lakers, Boston Celtics, Philadelphia 76ers and Dallas Mavericks, sources said.

While all those meetings would have been good theater, the Bulls were never going to let Butler walk this summer. He’s too key to them at both ends of the floor — he averaged 20 points a game, shot 37.8 percent from three, and is their best perimeter defender.

There’s a clear compromise to be made, one where the Bulls offer a three-year contract at the max (or four years, with a player option after three). That allows the Bulls to keep their young star in house as they try to create a post-Thibodeau identity. On the other side, it allows Butler to get well paid (he’s been on a small rookie deal) and still re-enter free agency in his prime.

Butler’s only other real option is an enormous gamble — take the one-year, $4.5 million qualifying offer and be an unrestricted free agent next summer. But that’s generation-changing money Butler would have to walk away from (then hope he doesn’t get injured).

The Bulls and Butler’s representatives will talk in the next 48 hours and see if they can work something out. If not, the meetings may be back on — even if teams know the Bulls will just match any offer.