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Butler may have made right call by nixing extension

By Joe Cowley

Staff Reporter

Shooting guard Jimmy Butler’s decision Friday to turn down the Bulls’ take-it-or-leave-it final offer on a contract extension might be smarter than many realize.

By becoming a restricted free agent in July, Butler not only can get a better idea of the market, but he also will be negotiating from a position of power — provided he stays healthy, of course — considering the shrinking pool of talent at his position.

‘‘It’s a great question, and you go through different stretches,’’ Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said when he was asked Tuesday about the talent at shooting guard drying up. ‘‘There was a stretch where everyone was saying, ‘Where are the point guards?’ And now there are a ton of point guards. Now you have more skilled bigs, so you don’t have as many true centers. I think it goes in cycles.

‘‘There are a lot of good basketball players. You might have a small who is good at posting up. You might have a big who can really shoot the three. When you add pieces like that, it makes your offense a lot different, particularly with the passing.’’

Butler provides the Bulls with a luxury not many teams have. Not only can he guard at least three positions very well, but he can slide to small forward on offense when the Bulls go with a two-point-guard attack.

It doesn’t hurt Butler’s case that the salary bar was set when the Golden State Warriors gave shooting guard Klay Thompson a four-year, $70 million extension at the deadline.

No on Noah

Center Joakim Noah has been battling a bad left knee since training camp started, but he missed his first game of the regular season Tuesday against the Orlando Magic because of flulike symptoms.

The plan was to leave Noah in Chicago on Tuesday night while the rest of the team took the bus up to Milwaukee, where the Bulls will face the Bucks on Wednesday. Noah then would drive up for the game if he was feeling better.

Despite having to wear a brace on his left knee all season, Noah had been gutting through the injury, averaging 6.3 points and 10 rebounds in 29.7 minutes in the Bulls’ first three games.

Email: jcowley@suntimes.com

Twitter: @suntimes_hoops