Jimmy Butler is a natural-born leader.
Shortly after bring traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves by the Chicago Bulls, Butler jumped into a major role for his new team and was one of the major reasons that Minnesota gained its first playoff berth in 14 years.
Averaging 22.2 points, 5.3 rebounds and 4.9 assists in 36.7 minutes per game over 59 regular-season contests, Butler picked up right where he left off in Chicago: as one of the best two-way players in the entire NBA.
However, the postseason berth didn’t amount to anything. The Wolves only won a single game in its first-round series loss to James Harden and the Houston Rockets.
But, the trouble didn't end there. Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times reported that Butler became extremely fed up with the nonchalant attitude of his younger teammates, specifically Karl-Anthony Towns.
Entering the final year of his current contract, Butler’s eligible to sign an extension this summer. But, in part due to his issues with Towns’ work ethic, he was not expected to commit for the long-term, even though it would give him security. He missed 17 games with a right meniscus injury that required surgery last season.
Per ESPN’s Nick Friedell, the All-Star turned down a four-year, $100-plus million extension this week.
"We offered him the extension, and they've met and come back to us and said they're really appreciative of it, they appreciate that we got to them right away and all that, but they declined it," Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor said in an interview with ESPN 1500.
"They said, 'You guys have done everything and we're very appreciative, but our bet is that we should wait 'til next year and we could get ourselves a better deal.' ... We did everything we could, and they want to do what they think is right for Jimmy,” Taylor added.
The owner pointed out that Butler is taking a risk for a couple reasons by not signing the contract.
"Jimmy's taking some gamble here, too," Taylor said. "That he won't get injured or that for some reason or another, he has a bad year. Both of us are taking some risk. I think the main thing is we have to play really well this year and be very competitive, and I think Jimmy, as other star players, will want to play on a team that does well and has the potential of doing better.”
Friedell didn’t report the exact number that Butler turned down, but it’s been rumored to be in the $110 million range, which would mean an annual value of around $27.5 million per season.
Although Butler is assuming some risk by turning down the deal, there’s a strong chance that he could simply want to play elsewhere beyond next season. Or, if he sees a future in Minnesota, this could be a way to send a clear message to Towns and the team’s young core as well as the front office.