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If Bulls won’t trade Nikola Vucevic or Coby White, how about extending them?

the case for continuity

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Phoenix Sun v Chicago Bulls Photo by Jeff Haynes/NBAE via Getty Images

The Bulls still haven’t traded Nikola Vucevic or Coby White after their names were bandied about in a number of trade rumors going back to the deadline. Vucevic was viewed as a possible centerpiece for a Rudy Gobert trade, but that obviously didn’t come to fruition as the Minnesota Timberwolves offered the world to get a deal done. White was reportedly being packaged along with the No. 18 pick in the draft, but K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago also reported right before free agency the Bulls were asking for quite a bit in return in a White deal.

With the Bulls going the “continuity” route this offseason, now it’s time to wonder whether extensions are in the future for these players. The gut reaction would be no, though it seems a Vucevic extension could be more likely.

I wrote a bit more about a Vucevic extension at Forbes last week and discussed it on Cash Considerations. While I don’t love the idea, a short-term extension at a reasonable price wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world. Vooch is still a rather productive center with a unique skill set. Vooch is in Tier 5 of Seth Partnow’s NBA player tiers over at The Athletic, putting him in the range of 85-125 in the league. (For full disclosure, Partnow has Alex Caruso and Ayo Dosunmu in Tier 5, Lonzo Ball in 4A, and then DeMar DeRozan and Zach LaVine in 3B.)

Of course, there’s concern about further decline at 32 years old, so the Bulls simply can’t commit big long-term money here.

Will Gottlieb over at CHGO went even deeper into the Vucevic extension decision but ultimately came to a similar conclusion:

Like it or not, the Bulls only path forward is the one they’re on. That means bringing Vucevic back until they figure out the next plan. Their best bet is to find an at, or below, market-rate contract over a shorter time horizon to give themselves a better chance at continuing to compete, while opening up potential avenues for a trade down the line.

The deadline for a Vucevic extension is June 30, 2023, which is right before he would become a free agent.

As for Coby White, I’d be shocked if he gets an extension after his disastrous finish to the season and overall inconsistency since entering the NBA. Even as one of the Bulls’ only legitimate 3-point shooters, he just hasn’t shown enough to warrant an extension, though Morten Jensen argues over at Forbes that extending White now ahead of the final season of his rookie contract would make it easier to trade him later:

For the Bulls, it’s time to be progressive. Hash out a deal with White that they know is tradeable next summer, play out the year with him in the rotation, and move him to fill bigger needs while re-signing Dosunmu to take over his role full-time.

It may sound complicated, but it’s the best way to get something in return for a player who can contribute, albeit on a lesser scale. White gets financial security now, the Bulls avoid restricted free agency. For all parties, that should be a win.

Mort suggests a four-year, $60 million extension for White, which sounds like a lot given his performance so far, though he notes the cap is in line to explode again in the coming years. That still does sound like too risky of an extension to hand out, but the Bulls are surely weighing their options here. The deadline for a White extension is right before the 2022-23 regular season begins.