Bulls strike fast in free agency, re-sign Jimmy Butler, Mike Dunleavy

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Bulls guard Jimmy Butler goes up for the dunk in the Bulls' Game 2 win over the Bucks on April 20th at the United Center.

CHICAGO — Wednesday showed why the Bulls were so confident entering free agency.

Moving quickly to retain their starting All-Star shooting guard and also starting small forward, the Bulls received verbal commitments from Jimmy Butler and Mike Dunleavy.

Butler agreed to a four-year deal with a player option for a fifth season that would be worth in excess of $90 million if he picks up the option, a source said. Dunleavy’s three-year deal contains partial guarantees for the third season and is worth just over $14 million, a source said.

Both deals can be signed when the league moratorium ends on July 9.

“I’m thrilled to be back,” Dunleavy said in an interview. “It’s a really fair deal. I’m looking forward to playing for (new coach Fred Hoiberg) and love our team.”

In the past, the Bulls have been averse to granting player options. But they did so for both Pau Gasol and Kirk Hinrich last summer and were open to doing the same for Butler from the start, sources said.

That helped Butler turn down interest from the Lakers, among others. It also helped Butler’s bet on himself worth an extra $50 million after he turned down the Bulls’ four-year, $44 million extension offer last October.

Per the collective bargaining agreement, the Bulls were able to offer higher percentage raises than other teams to Butler, whose maximum deal could start over $16 million now that the salary-cap is projected to be possibly $2 million higher when the league completes its audit.

That also would push the luxury tax threshhold higher, which could aid the Bulls, who are prepared to pay the tax for just the second time in franchise history.

Dunleavy drew strong interest from the Cavaliers and LeBron James but found a comfort level both personally and professionally in Chicago. He consistently stated his desire to return.

“I love my teammates and the organization and the fans and living in Chicago,” Dunleavy said. “My kids are happy here. My wife is happy. It really was a priority to come back.”

–K.C. Johnson, Chicago Tribune

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