Heat Rumors: Jimmy Butler to Sign 4-Year, $184M Max Contract Extension

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistAugust 2, 2021

Miami Heat forward Jimmy Butler brings the ball down court against the Charlotte Hornets during the first half of an NBA basketball game on Sunday, May 2, 2021, in Charlotte, N.C. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)
Chris Carlson/Associated Press

Jimmy Butler and the Miami Heat have reportedly agreed to a maximum contract extension, according to Shams Charania of Stadium and The Athletic and Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic.  

That agreement can become official when the 2021-22 league year begins on Friday, per Charania, who cited cap experts when relaying the deal is expected to be four years and north of $184 million.

The Heat weren't at risk of imminently losing the 31-year-old to free agency. He's signed for $36 million in 2021-22 and has a $37.7 million player option for 2022-23.

However, the five-time All-Star was eligible to sign an extension this offseason, and the Miami Herald's Anthony Chiang reported June 1 he was expected to ask for a four-year, $181 million max deal.

Butler hasn't disappointed since arriving in a sign-and-trade with the Philadelphia 76ers ahead of the 2019-20 season.

He almost single-handedly carried Miami to the 2020 NBA Finals, averaging 22.2 points, 6.5 rebounds, 6.0 assists and 2.0 steals over the postseason. He followed that up with one of the best single seasons in his career to date.

The former Marquette star set personal bests in field-goal percentage (49.7), rebounds (6.9), assists (7.1) and steals (a league-best 2.1). According to NBA.com, the Heat were 11.1 points per 100 possessions better with him on the floor.

However, Butler's next contract presented the Heat with a bit of a dilemma.

Miami could have waited until he was closer to free agency to put pen to paper on a new deal, but that strategy risked alienating its best player.

When Krawczynski reported in September 2018 that Butler was seeking a trade from the Timberwolves, Minnesota's hesitancy to renegotiate his contract to pay him an additional $145 million over four years was framed as the inciting incident.

Although there haven't been any signs of friction between Butler and the Heat, the rapid deterioration of his relationship with the Timberwolves was an example of how quickly things can unravel.

Those who argue in favor of paying Butler now can point to the fact that the teams that balked at giving him a substantial raise came to regret it.

ESPN's Nick Friedell reported in September 2020 that the Chicago Bulls "couldn't be sold on Butler as the face of a championship-caliber team worthy of the supermax, five-year, $223 million contract he could have pursued after the 2017-18 season." The Bulls have been adrift since trading Butler to Minnesota.

Yaron Weitzman of Bleacher Report noted in August 2020 the Sixers had reservations about bringing Butler back to due a strained dynamic with then-head coach Brett Brown.

"There was also the question of how Butler's presence on a multiyear deal would affect [Ben] Simmons, who Brown had moved off the ball in the playoffs so that Butler could run the show," he also wrote.

Butler's absence was glaring during Philadelphia's first-round sweep at the hands of the Boston Celtics in 2020.

The biggest concern with the 6'7" wing is that he isn't getting any younger.

Butler was a fringe player as a rookie, averaging 8.5 minutes per game over 42 games. Since his second year, he has logged at least 40 minutes in a game on 147 occasions, fourth-highest in the league, according to Stathead.

"The Heat will have to keep in mind the cardinal rule when it comes to a player who is extension-eligible: Do not solely reward a player on past accomplishments but what the future holds," ESPN's Bobby Marks wrote in June. "If you live in the past, you could get stuck with a dead weight contract on the back end."

The supermax extensions for Russell Westbrook and John Wall are two prime examples, as is Kemba Walker's max contract with the Boston Celtics.

All things considered, knocking this out now was the best move for Miami. The team is looking to win a championship now, and Butler can help make that happen. Prospective free agents and trade candidates won't be looking at the Heat roster and questioning his status, either.

This move could nonetheless backfire in a big way if Butler's game noticeably declines as he gets deeper into his 30s.