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

Jimmy Butler has agreed to a four-year max deal with player option for fifth year.

Jimmy Butler’s bet on himself could be worth roughly $50 million.

On an efficient first full day of NBA free agency, the Bulls moved quickly Wednesday to retain two starters, receiving verbal commitments from Butler and Mike Dunleavy.

Butler agreed to a four-year maximum deal with a player option for a fifth season, sources said. Depending on where the salary cap is set and if Butler picks up the option, the deal could be worth up to $95 million.

Dunleavy’s three-year deal contains partial guarantees for the third season and is worth just more than $14 million based on a $67 million salary cap, a source said. Both deals can be signed when the league concludes its annual audit and the moratorium ends July 9.

“I’m thrilled to be back. I think it’s a really fair deal,” Dunleavy said in an interview. “I’m looking forward to playing for (new coach Fred Hoiberg) and love our team. I have a great feeling about this group and that’s a big reason why I’m back.”

Dunleavy said he spoke with Butler last week and never believed he would turn down another lucrative guaranteed payday after Butler did so with the Bulls’ four-year, $44 million extension offer last October. Butler cashed in that decision by becoming a first-time All-Star and winning the league’s Most Improved Player award.

In the past, the Bulls had been averse to granting player options. But they did so last summer for both Pau Gasol and Kirk Hinrich and persuaded Butler to turn down interest from the Lakers, among others, in doing so again.

Per the collective bargaining agreement, the Bulls were able to offer higher percentage raises than other teams to Butler, whose maximum deal will start somewhere between $15.7 and $16.2 million once the cap is set.

If the league’s numbers come in higher, that would also push the luxury tax threshold higher. That would lessen the Bulls’ penalty because they are be a tax team for just the second time in franchise history.

Dunleavy drew strong interest from the Cavaliers and LeBron James, who made it clear he wanted the subtly effective offensive player and stretch-the-floor shooter.

“I have a really good relationship with these guys,” Dunleavy said. “I couldn’t leave at this point.”

Dunleavy, who will turn 35 just before training camp opens in September, found a comfort level professionally and personally in Chicago.

“That’s a huge part of it,” he said. “Not only do I love my teammates and the organization and the fans and the city but my kids are happy here. My wife is happy. It really was a priority to come back if we could make it work. And we did.”

Dunleavy has spoken with Hoiberg twice since the coach was hired in early June.

“I’m looking forward to playing for him,” he said. “I played against Fred when he was in the league and always respected and admired him as a player. I watched a little bit of his teams at Iowa State. He has a style of play that’s conducive to our league at this time.”

Dunleavy turned down more lucrative offers to sign a two-year, $6.5 million deal with the Bulls in 2013. That he secured a longer-term deal worth more money speaks to his ability to take advantage of the Luol Deng trade and contribute at both ends.

“I never would have imagined at my age and the last two deals I was on, my value would be bumped up,” he said. “But crazy things happen. Guys get hurt. Guys get traded. There was an opportunity and I was prepared for it and made the most of it. I’ve really enjoyed my two years and looking for more.”

So is Butler, who will play alongside Derrick Rose in a potentially explosive backcourt. The pair went 28-17 in regular-season games it played together last season and each averaged above 20 points in the playoffs.

The Bulls will add another reserve guard via free agency.

kcjohnson@tribpub.com

Twitter @kcjhoop

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