Jimmy Butler wants to stay a Bull, but is the feeling mutual?

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The last 10 regular-season games should be proof enough.

Then again, the Bulls’ front office doesn’t always see what’s right in front of it and doesn’t always appreciate what it has.

Jimmy Butler’s crusade to will the Bulls back into the postseason the last three weeks went beyond numbers, even though he averaged 27.3 points on 51 percent shooting, 6.8 assists and 6.1 rebounds in a 7-3 finish that enabled the team to earn the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs. It was also the way Butler made everyone else around him better and more confident.

But as the NBA draft approaches in June, there likely will be another trade rumor involving Butler. The Bulls’ front office seems hell-bent on using an elite player to acquire unknown assets rather than on building around a top-10 talent.

‘‘I’m just playing basketball,’’ Butler said when he was asked if he thought he had made the case he needs to stay put. ‘‘I don’t make those decisions. I do what I would do for anybody, and that’s to play hard, to help win. I always leave it at that.

‘‘Whatever happens, happens, man. But right now I want to win. I want to win in these playoffs for this organization. Then whenever that time comes, we’ll handle that then.’’

While Butler has been guarded about discussing the offseason, multiple sources have made it clear he wants to talk with general manager Gar Forman and vice president John Paxson when the playoffs end to seek answers.

‘‘He wants to stay in Chicago, no doubt,’’ a source told the Sun-Times. ‘‘But he also wants to win.’’’

That would require the front office not to trade Butler, who has gotten better every season, hope Dwyane Wade opts back in, then help them recruit freely with its blessing and its checkbook.

The lazier path would be for Forman and Paxson to trade Butler and to draft youth, buying themselves more time on the job under the guise of rebuilding.

Maybe that’s why the Bulls’ first-round playoff series against the Boston Celtics is so important for Butler. Not only will he have a chance to continue showing the front office he is someone to build around, but he also has an opportunity to persuade the Celtics to go after him in a trade with more aggressiveness than they did last June.

‘‘This is why you really play,’’ Butler said of the playoffs. ‘‘Yeah, you love to go through the regular season. But when you get into the playoffs, anything can happen. It’s all about just playing the best basketball at the right time.’’

If the Bulls are determined to rebuild, the Celtics wouldn’t be a bad landing spot for Butler, given their coach, front office and championship pedigree. His hope, though, is that the Bulls’ front office knows better than that.

Follow me on Twitter @suntimes_hoops.

Email: jcowley@suntimes.com


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