Bulls’ Jimmy Butler named to All-NBA third team

Jimmy Butler really doesn’t need the front office’s validation.

The league has spoken: Butler was named third team All-NBA Thursday, becoming the first Bulls All-NBA player since Pau Gasol made the second team after the 2014-15 season.

It’s great timing for Butler, especially because he’ll be eligible for the designated-player exception if he can make All-NBA again the next two seasons.

That would mean a possible negotiated max contract extension of $240 million-plus starting in the 2019-20 season with the Bulls.

It’s a discussion between Butler and management for another day.

The problem right now is the sides haven’t even been able to sit down and discuss Butler’s standing within the organization.

Butler at times has felt underappreciated by vice president of basketball operations John Paxson and general manager Gar Forman because of their public reluctance to commit to building around him.

A front-office source told the Sun-Times in late April that Paxson already had reached out to Butler to let him know that despite the frequent trade talk — not initiated by the Bulls — they indeed were committed to him. Paxson even set a tentative date for a meeting away from the facility.

But after the Bulls were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs and Butler went through his exit meetings, he headed to California for some rest.

The expectation was a return to Chicago for that meeting, but the  source said Wednesday that Butler opted to stay in California and plans to meet with Paxson at an undetermined time.

“It’s not a situation that’s contentious by any means,’’ the source said. “It’s more of an understanding that the two will talk at some point soon.’’

Paxson addressed the Butler situation after the season and was somewhat vague. After the media piled on him, however, Paxson took to the local talk-show circuit the next day and said, “I want to make this clear . . . we’re not looking to move Jimmy Butler.’’

Privately, Butler is wise enough to realize that if some ridiculous trade offer were made, the Bulls would have to listen. At the same time, Butler thinks the team should publicly acknowledge the player he has become since he was drafted with the last pick of the first round in the 2011 draft.

All-NBA honors didn’t hurt Butler’s case as he joined Draymond Green, John Wall, DeMar DeRozan and DeAndre Jordan on the third team after averaging a career-best 23.9 points, 6.2 rebounds and 5.5 assists.

Butler was one of only five players to average at least 20 points, six rebounds and five assists, joining Giannis Antetokounmpo, James Harden, LeBron James and Russell Westbrook.

Follow me on Twitter @suntimes_hoops.

Email: jcowley@suntimes.com

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