The NBA draft combine takes place in Chicago later this week, the next step in what promises to be an offseason of change for the Bulls.
For all the talk about how executive vice president John Paxson and general manager Gar Forman made clear every option is on the table this summer, this is a front office that, historically, has preferred to build through the draft.
That’s why, despite Forman saying last month “we have to explore all options” when asked directly about committing to Butler as a franchise centerpiece, it still would be a surprise if the Bulls traded their two-time All-Star.
That comment didn’t sit well with Butler, sources said, merely adding to his growing wariness regarding Forman that stems from Butler feeling slighted during failed negotiations on his rookie extension. Butler ultimately rejected the Bulls’ four-year, $44 million offer, won Most Improved Player honors for 2014-15 and signed a five-year, $92.3 million deal with a player option for the final season last July.
Butler’s contract has a 5 percent trade kicker, sources said. The norm for similarly lucrative contracts for high-profile players is 15 percent, which is one reason considerable chatter remains throughout the league that teams could make a run at Butler near the June 23 NBA draft.
But in the Bulls’ early organizational meetings to shape offseason strategy, little changed from the February trade deadline regarding Butler, sources said. That means it would take a significant offer involving at least one high-profile player and multiple first-round picks to pry him loose.
The Celtics offered an underwhelming package for Butler centered on reserves and picks in February.
Butler’s discontent with Forman’s comment rivals Joakim Noah’s unhappiness with how his role was handled last season. That’s intriguing given those players didn’t see eye-to-eye as Butler publicly tried to move into a leadership role long held by Noah.
At management’s season-ending news conference, Paxson publicly stated his affinity for Noah, saying “he represents a lot of things we believe in.” And the Bulls, mindful that there is plenty of work to do to re-sign him, will engage in discussions with Noah when he becomes an unrestricted free agent for the first time in his career July 1.
The Bulls already have begun draft preparations and will learn their official position at the May 17 lottery in New York. Currently 14th, they own an 0.5 percent chance at the top pick and just a 1.8 percent chance to move into the top three.
At their last draft lottery appearance in 2008, they overcame 1.7 percent odds to vault from the ninth spot to the top pick and selected Derrick Rose. Coincidentally, with Rose entering the final year of his contract, the Bulls are targeting a point guard aggressively in the draft for the second straight year.
Last year, the Bulls were fully prepared to select a point guard from a draft deep at that position before Bobby Portis unexpectedly dropped to them at No. 22. This year’s draft isn’t as deep at point guard. If the Bulls don’t trade up, one player sources say intrigues them — Providence combo guard Kris Dunn — certainly would be gone at No. 14. .
The Bulls historically have been aggressive with trades to move up in the draft, doing so to acquire Luol Deng in 2004 and Doug McDermott in 2014.
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