Chicago Bulls swingman Jimmy Butler is set to hit restricted free agency next summer after failing to agree to a contract extension before the Oct. 31 deadline, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports. The fourth-year guard's rookie contract expires at the end of the 2014-15 season, at which point the team will presumably extend a qualifying offer to retain his restricted free agency status.
"It came down to me deciding that I want to bet on myself," Butler told Yahoo Sports in a text message on Friday. "It was about me believing that I put the work in this summer to become a better player with the hope that my improvement will give the Bulls a better chance to win a championship."
As of Thursday evening, negotiations between Butler and the Bulls remained $2.5 million apart in terms of an annually salary, according to the Chicago Tribune's K.C. Johnson. It may not have helped the Bulls that Utah and shooting guard Alec Burks came to an agreement on a four-year extension that will pay a base salary of $10.5 million annually, according to Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski.
Butler, 25, was originally drafted by the Bulls with the No. 30 overall pick in the 2011 draft out of Marquette. He became a favorite of coach Tom Thibodeau's during his second year with the team, eventually earning the starting gig thanks to his strong defense and improved offensive skills.
Now, Butler is something of a workhorse on the wings for Chicago, playing nearly 40 minutes a night while often covering the opposing team's best wing scorer. He's not as impressive on the offensive end, where he shot below 40 percent in 2013-14, but should improve his efficiency somewhat with the return of Derrick Rose and another year of experience under his belt.
How much Butler can progress as a scorer and offensive facilitator will ultimately determine his upside, but for now, he's a high-level wing defender and capable offensive role player who works hard and has complete respect from the coaching staff.