At the end of this season Jimmy Butler of the Chicago Bulls will become a restricted free agent. There are a number of teams planning on offering him a maximum level contract, including the Los Angeles Lakers.
We haven’t actually heard anything about any contract talks between the Bulls and Butler. We won’t until the playoffs are over for the Bulls, however long that takes. But it’s not unreasonable to think it’s going to take something close to a maximum contract offer in order to retain his services, or watch him go somewhere else.
Being a restricted free agent, the Bulls have a short amount of time to match any offer made to him. He can also give up on a long-term contract signing and simply go to a one-year qualifying deal (worth $4.4 million), although that is highly unlikely considering all the money he’d be losing. However, maybe Butler, like many other players, will be thinking about the 2016 salary cap increase, which might make him and many others go for short term deals this offseason.
The Lakers have a shooting guard, Kobe Bryant. As bad as he’s become on some nights, no one is taking his spot in the lineup, and Butler isn’t exactly someone who should be coming off the bench for 25 minutes a game. He can play the small forward role which he did earlier in his career, so on paper, it’s possible to combine Bryant and Butler, especially with Bryant not capable of playing too many minutes anymore.
The Lakers have $48 million committed to the salary cap next season, $25 million of it to Kobe Bryant. That leaves more or less room for one maximum contract according to assessments of how high the next salary cap will be (about $67-68 million).
The Lakers will be making a move after every top and big name free agent this offseason, hoping to land one of them. Sadly, for them at least, when looking at their roster, just one big signing isn’t going to be good enough for a major improvement next season. Probably not until Kobe Bryant retires.