When Chicago Bulls star forward Jimmy Butler informed the Cavaliers that he would rather stay in Chicago than be traded to Cleveland, NBA fans collectively let out a sigh of relief.
Not only did Butler say he would rather stay in Chicago, but he is also reluctant to commit to a long-term future in Cleveland.
Link to the latest on the obstacles confronting Cleveland in its trade pursuit of Jimmy Butler or Paul George --> https://t.co/hCWjndI0HA— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) June 21, 2017
Butler's decision to refuse an invitation to join the Cavaliers 'Big Three' comes just one year after NBA Finals MVP Kevin Durant elected to join the Warriors in free agency. It's unknown what pieces Cleveland would have had to give up to acquire Butler (Kevin Love most likely would be involved) but we do know the three-time All-Star would have joined a core consisting of LeBron James and Kyrie Irving. More importantly, it would have been a core that rivals the 'Super Team' put together in Golden State.
Butler, only 27 years old, could become a free agent as early as 2019. An explosive two-way player, Butler also represents one of the most coveted targets in an offseason already swirling with blockbuster trade rumors.
Giving LeBron James an elite wing like Butler would only improve a team that cruised through the first three rounds of the playoffs with a 12-1 record - now they want to get better, and this came at the expense of GM David Griffin.
Cavs owner Dan Gilbert, just like that, just issued a statement that he and GM David Griffin have mutually agreed NOT to extend his contract— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) June 19, 2017
Instead, Butler is set on taking the Bulls back to Eastern Conference relevance and bringing 50 wins to Chicago for the first time since 2014-2015.
It remains to be seen what the Bulls front office decides to do with its prized possession. The Bulls received news earlier today that Dwyane Wade will be picking up his $24 million player option, but after sneaking into the playoffs as the No. 8 seed, changes must be made.
Dwyane Wade tells Bulls he plans to pick up his $24 million player option to remain with the team next season. pic.twitter.com/HYvotTEh6F— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) June 20, 2017
With Butler off the court last season, the Bulls managed a -7.1 net rating, which would have been second to last in the league. With its star forward they had a net rating of 3.0, good for No. 8 in the NBA. Butler means everything to the Bulls on both ends of the court, and with some better shooters around him, they could have had a much more efficient offense.
That said, the regular season Eastern Conference champion Boston Celtics, among others, have expressed interest in Butler. One league executive texted "It's either Boston or Cleveland but he's going."
Butler may not have a say in his end destination, but if his word is enough to dissuade a trade to Cleveland, he did the NBA a huge favor. And if any team is looking to dethrone LeBron's Cavaliers as the King of the East, look no further. Butler and the Bulls went 4-0 against Cleveland last year.