Jimmy Butler has exceeded the Miami Heat's wildest expectations since he joined the team through a 2019 sign-and-trade. The veteran forward led the team to the 2019 NBA Finals, and despite an early bout with COVID-19, he managed to bounce back and post career-best numbers in rebounds and assists this season. Butler struggled in a first-round sweep by the Milwaukee Bucks, but with another All-NBA berth likely on the horizon and the Heat expecting to contend for championships over the next several years, the five-time All-Star is expected to seek compensation for his success with the Heat.
According to Anthony Chiang of The Miami Herald, Butler is likely to seek a four-year, maximum salary contract extension this offseason. Butler currently has two years left on his deal, including a 2022-23 player option worth $37.6 million. However, Butler now has over 10 years of NBA experience, meaning his max is substantially higher at 35 percent of the cap.
The cap is projected to fall at $112.4 million this offseason, and a minimum three percent raise is built in for the 2022-23 season. That would take the cap to around $115.8 million. Butler's new deal could start at 35 percent of that figure and rise by eight percent each year thereafter. Here's what that deal would look like, assuming Butler got the full max.
A projected extension at the max would wipe away that option year and pay Butler $40.5 million for the 2022-23 season. In total, the extension could add up to $181 million over four years to Butler's contract. With the existing guaranteed year left on his deal, he would make roughly $217 million over five years.
Of course, it should be noted that Butler will turn 32 before next season starts. His injury history is long even if he's never suffered any single major incident. This deal would lock Butler up through his age-36 season at an exorbitant price, and the Heat typically prefer to maintain flexibility. This sort of commitment would put them in danger a few years down the line, when Butler begins to decline. He hardly ever shoots 3-pointers, which should make it harder for him to contribute when his athleticism wanes.
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The Heat could theoretically offer Butler an extension at less than the max. NBA rules stipulate that an extension must start at least at his option figure of $37.6 million for the 2022-23 season, but there's roughly $3 million in wiggle room there. The Heat do not need to include eight percent annual raises or guarantee all of those later seasons, either. But they need to be careful about how they broach any extension that comes in below the max. The deterioration of Butler's relationship with the Timberwolves began when they refused to clear enough cap space to renegotiate and extend him up to the max in the 2018 offseason. He is a proud player who expects to be paid what he considers market value. His relationship with the Heat seems to be stronger than the one he had with the Timberwolves, but he is not the sort of player Miami should feel comfortable low-balling.
But the Heat went through that experience with Butler's former teammate, Dwyane Wade. Pat Riley has expressed regret at how he handled that situation, and given Miami's young talent and appeal as a destination for stars on the trade market, they may feel comfortable potentially overpaying Butler for the sake of maintaining locker room harmony and the team's infamous culture. A full max for Butler might be a risk, but he got this team to the Finals only a year ago. The Heat will do what it takes to keep him happy.