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How Bulls GM Gar Forman Gambled on Jimmy Butler and Lost Big

Jimmy Butler‘s rookie contract is set to expire at the end of this season because the Chicago Bulls and Butler failed to hammer out an extension this past summer. While it’s quite common for parties to come to terms in this scenario, the Bulls and Butler disagreed on his value and ultimately couldn’t hash out a deal. The Bulls offered between $10-11 million annually over four years, depending on which report you read, and Butler’s camp was supposedly willing to settle for $12 million a year. Here’s what Butler had to say at the time on not settling on the Bulls’ offer (via Yahoo! Sports):

“It came down to me deciding that I want to bet on myself. It was about me believing that I put the work in this summer to become a better player with the hope that my improvement will give the Bulls a better chance to win a championship.”

Jimmy Butler wanted to bet on himself, and it looks like he will soon hit the jackpot.

Reports have come out today that as expected, the salary cap is going to skyrocket in the next few years, jumping up to $108 million by 2017. As ESPN’s Marc Stein notes, this means that max contracts will routinely cross the $30 million a year mark by the time the cap goes above $100 million.

It’s expected that Butler will get a maximum contract offer this year, but he might be wise not to take a long-term deal and wait for the cap to explode. This is because maximum contracts are capped annually based on a percentage of how high the salary cap is in the first year of the deal.

With the cap set to increase from $67.1 million next year all the way to $108 million in 2017, this would mean if Butler were to sign a big deal this summer, he would make $16.78 million in the first year of his deal with capped annual raises of 7.5 percent in subsequent years. If, on the other hand, he were to sign a shorter term deal and sign a new deal in 2017, he would start his deal at $27 million with the same 7.5 percent annual raises.

Since Butler is a restricted free agent, the Bulls will be able to match any offer that a team throws at him this offseason. The Bulls have already stated emphatically that they’ll match any offer, so there’s no reason for Bulls fans to worry that they’ll lose Butler in the offseason. However, the Bulls and GM Gar Forman will pay dearly for not extending him this past summer. They could have had Butler signed through 2019 for $12 million a year. Now it looks like he’ll be making between $17 million and $30 million in those years depending on what type of contract he chooses to pursue.

Butler made a bold prediction in the offseason, eschewing security in favor of betting that he’d have a great season and the Bulls would be forced to pay him. Before the season started, he stated (via Chicago Tribune):

“I think I still will end up in this city. I understand this is a business so I just have to be a great basketball player. I love my odds…I’m going to produce. I’m going to guard. I will take that on myself.”

It looks like Jimmy Butler is as good of a gambler as he is a basketball star.

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