Looks like Butler and Dunleavy will wear Red


Jul 2

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The Bulls are putting the band back together. But will it be able to hit the high notes?

That’s the big question as the Bulls, according to league sources and published reports, agreed Wednesday to contracts with their new Mr. Fabulous, Jimmy Butler, and fellow sole man Mike Dunleavy.

Teams are not permitted to discuss or officially sign contracts with free agents until July 9. But with the start of free agency July 1, commitments reportedly were given throughout the NBA, apparently including Butler and Dunleavy as well.

Reports around the NBA had Anthony Davis agreeing to a bonanza long term deal (five years starting after this season) with the New Orleans Pelicans. Thus so much for speculation that developing superstar Davis might move on or even choose to return to his home town. Teammate Omer Asik also returns. Among other reports were agreements with DeMarre Carroll to Toronto, Goran Dragic to Miami, Paul Pierce to the Clippers, Paul Millsap back in Atlanta, Kevin Love back in Cleveland along with Tristan Thompson and Iman Shumpert, Draymond Green back with Golden State, Amir Johnson to Boston and Kawhi Leonard back to the Spurs.

Brandon Wright supposedly agreed with Memphis, Tyson Chandler to the Suns, Kyle Singler returned to the Thunder, Khris Middleton to the Bucks, Danny Green went back to the Spurs, Brook Lopez was to return to the Nets and Al-Farouq Aminu to Portland.

Though it was a busy day in the NBA, there still were some significant moves to be made that could dwarf the moves from Wednesday.

The biggest name player remaining is probably the Trailblazers’ LaMarcus Aldridge, who continues to meet with teams. Aldridge is said to be closest to leaving Portland for the Spurs, who traded Tiago Splitter to Atlanta for more salary cap signing room. The Suns and Rockets also are said to be contenders. Similarly, the Clippers’ DeAndre Jordan could choose to return or perhaps go to Dallas, according to reports. Plus, David West is said to be leaving Indiana to seek a different opportunity. LeBron James is a free agent, though no one believes he’d leave Cleveland while Dwyane Wade likely is leaning toward a return to Miami, though negotiations have supposedly been uncomfortable.

It’s likely not a seismic shift in the NBA balance of power with the Cavaliers remaining the favorite in the Eastern Conference with commitments Wednesday for more that $200 million before negotiating with James. The Heat likely has moved up to a top four spot as the Hawks and Pacers probably have slipped. The Bucks could make another move as they are rumored in talks with Robin Lopez for a big man to help support a talented young team that also has top four aspirations.

In the Western Conference, the Spurs would probably move to favorites if they can agree to terms with Aldridge. The Thunder will get back Kevin Durant and Serge Ibaka to challenge Golden State as well. Plus, Memphis deepens its rotation and is expected to resign Marc Gasol. That all changes is Gasol leaves. It is not expected.

The Kings have been dealing players for salary cap room, supposedly to negotiate with Rajon Rondo, Wesley Matthews and/or Monta Ellis, the latter also said to be talking with Indiana.

So in the Western Conference, the playoff teams at this early stage look like the Spurs, Rockets, Warriors, Grizzlies, Pelicans, Thunder, Clippers and Jazz and Suns fighting for eighth.

In the Eastern Conference, it looks like the Cavs, Heat Bulls, Hawks, Wizards, Raptors and then Pacers, Bucks and Bobcats for the last two spots.

Of course, that could change once the summer league games are played.

That also makes early losers of the Lakers, Knicks, Mavericks, Magic and Trailblazers, though there are still many players to consider and nothing official for another week.

For the Bulls, it appeared to be an eventful/uneventful day as they had the right to match any offer to Butler while Dunleavy apparently made it clear he likes the city and the team and wanted to return.

Most unexpected—or perhaps it shouldn’t have been—was the general league wide trend, including with Butler, to take the money.

The speculation and some of it involving Butler was most players would seek short term deals to take advantage of the vastly increasing salary cap starting next year.

Instead, the majority of the players who apparently committed to deals opted for the longest deals they could get and generally with a players’ option for that final season. In Butler’s case, that would be in the fifth year of his five-year commitment.

Once Butler signs the contract presumably next week, he will become the Bulls player owed the most money and with the longest commitment to the team. It’s contrary to reports Butler wanted a short team deal, the speculation being he was unhappy and would want to leave the team soon.

Instead, Butler apparently agreed to be locked into the team at least though the 2018-19 season. Going into 2015-16, Butler will be the only Bulls player on the roster with a guaranteed contract for that season.

Dunleavy’s deal is rumored to be for about $14.4 million over three years with a player option in the third year. Butler’s contract is estimated between $91 million and $95 million with a starting salary of about $16 million. Butler made $2 million last season after rejecting a four-year offer estimated at about $44 million to become a restricted free agent.

Since the actual salaries are based on the salary cap total (the players get a percentage), they cannot be calculated precisely yet since the new salary cap figures have not been finalized. Contracts also are based on seniority for veteran players and salary cap amounts in future years, so maximum deals can differ in amount.

Butler posted a picture of Chicago in his Twitter account reading, “windy city skyline … aka home.”

Butler, who turns 26 in September, had his breakout year last season. He made the All-Star team and was named NBA Most Improved Player. He averaged 20 points to lead the team in scoring along with 5.8 rebounds and 3.3 assists. Butler’s career scoring average coming into the season was 8.9 on 31 percent three-point shooting. He shot 39.7 percent overall in 2013-14. Butler shot 37 percent on threes last season.

Dunleavy, who will be 35 in September, averaged 9.4 points and 3.9 rebounds last season while leading the team in three-point shooting at 41 percent. Pau Gasol shot 46 percent on threes, but with just 26 attempts. Dunleavy attempted 263. Dunleavy also reportedly was courted by the Cavaliers as LeBron James was said to have wanted Dunleavy to be like Mike Miller was for his team in Miami. But someone without a limp.

The Bulls, thus, pretty much will have completed their roster for the 2015-16 season once the signings become official.

The budget and roster for the 2015-16 season would look something like this with salaries in millions and approximations, according to published reports:

Derrick Rose 20.0
Jimmy Butler 16.0
Joakim Noah 14.0
Taj Gibson 8.5
Pau Gasol 7.5
Nikola Mirotic 5.5
Mike Dunleavy 4.8
Kirk Hinrich 2.9
Doug McDermott 2.4
Tony Snell 1.5
Bobby Portis 1.2
E’Twaun Moore 1.0
Cameron Bairstow 1.0

The Bulls still likely will add a veteran backup guard. They’ll be well into the luxury tax and will have one of the highest payrolls in the league. They presumably hope it produces sweet string music.

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