Jimmy Butler is a big proponent of the NBA’s recruiting process.
His call to Dwyane Wade helped close that deal last summer, and Butler has been working his phone, talking to potential free agents about the 2017 offseason going back almost 12 months.
His time with Team USA was good for the Butler brand, and it also allowed him to get in the ear of Paul George, Kyle Lowry or any player who’d listen.
The problem Butler and the Bulls are facing this summer, however, is timing.
General manager Gar Forman was beating his chest about fiscal responsibility during the league’s last few free-agent spending sprees but has painted the franchise into a corner with the contracts of Wade and Rajon Rondo.
As long as Butler is still a Bull when Wade has to decide on his $23.8 million player option at the end of June, you can pencil in that final year of his deal to the Bulls’ payroll. Then there’s Rondo; the Bulls can pay him $13.4 million to stay or $3 million to go away.
Forman and vice president of basketball operations John Paxson indicated they want Rondo back, which means any chance of landing a big-name free agent is all but gone.
But what if Butler has a wink-and-a-smile deal in place with Lowry already? Would the front office gamble on letting Rondo go and enter free agency in July with the hopes Lowry would accept a deal that would pay him about $6 million a year less than he would get anywhere else for leaving Toronto?
Unlikely. That’s why Rondo and Wade likely will return, leaving the Bulls to hope that improvement will come from within. It will be a crucial summer for the development of Denzel Valentine, Cameron Payne and Jerian Grant.
WHO’S COMING BACK?
Dwyane Wade — A final decision is still weeks away, but all indications point to Wade opting back in and playing one more season in his hometown.
Rajon Rondo — His two-game showing against Boston in the playoffs changed a lot of opinions.
Isaiah Canaan — He’s a cheap end-of-the-bench option to keep around.
Jerian Grant — A rotation player who had some flashes but doesn’t scream starter.
Cameron Payne — The “point guard of the future,’’ as Gar Forman called him, has a lot to prove. He showed up after being acquired from Oklahoma City out of shape and was overwhelmed on the court far too often. His best moments came in the D-League.
Denzel Valentine — Injuries and playing out of position didn’t help his growth as a rookie, and that’s why the front office wants to get him back into the playmaking role this summer.
WHO COULD BE DEPARTING?
Michael Carter-Williams — By the end of the season, the 2013-14 Rookie of the Year sounded like a guy ready to move on again, unhappy with his role.
Anthony Morrow — The journeyman had a few moments but will be taking those moments elsewhere.
WHO’S OUT THERE?
Jimmy Butler would love to see Gar/Pax make a splash this summer, but he’ll have to wait until 2018, when Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo are off the books. So while Kyle Lowry isn’t likely to walk through that door, a J.J. Redick or Patty Mills would instantly give coach Fred Hoiberg some much-needed floor-spacers.
Markelle Fultz and Lonzo Ball headline a point guard-heavy draft, but at No. 16, the Bulls are looking at Donovan Mitchell — if they’re lucky. In all likelihood, a guard who fits the rotation won’t be easy to find when the Bulls select.
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