Andre Drummond

Andre Drummond returns to Bulls after exercising player option

Veteran center played in 67 games last season as Nikola Vučević’s backup

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One day after agreeing to a contract extension with starter Nikola Vučević, the Chicago Bulls solidified their backup at the position.

Andre Drummond exercised his $3.36 million player option by Thursday's deadline, the Bulls announced, which the veteran center hinted at doing earlier this month on the Paper Route podcast by I AM ATHLETE.

The 11-year veteran averaged 6 points and 6.6 rebounds in 12.7 minutes over 67 games last season for the Bulls. But he seemingly rotated in and out of coach Billy Donovan’s trust circle, dropping out of the rotation at times in favor of Donovan’s small-ball lineups.

Coincidentally, Derrick Jones Jr., who first talked about returning only to decline his player option, served as the backup center primarily in those smaller lineups.

Drummond showed how he still can impact a game during the Bulls’ season-ending, play-in loss to the Miami Heat. He finished with six points and eight rebounds in 10 minutes, helping flip the momentum before the Bulls’ late collapse.

Drummond remained professional throughout even as he hungered for a larger role, consistently praising Vučević and giving voice to his respect for their practice battles.

In April, Drummond publicly acknowledged mental health issues he is facing that prompted him to take a one-game break.

The Bulls enter Friday’s start to free agency armed with the non-taxpayer, mid-level exception worth $12.4 million and the biannual exception worth $4.5 million. They also have veteran minimum exceptions to round out a roster that currently has nine players projected to be under contract---Zach LaVine, DeMar DeRozan, Vučević, Lonzo Ball, Alex Caruso, Patrick Williams, Drummond, Dalen Terry and Julian Phillips---with the futures of Carlik Jones and Marko Simonovic iffy.

Management extended qualifying offers to Coby White and Ayo Dosunmu and publicly have expressed their desire to re-sign both. The Bulls also are in dialogue with Patrick Beverley on a possible return, a source confirmed.

With Drummond’s development, which was first reported by ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, there’s still a scenario where the Bulls re-sign their own free agents, add players via their exceptions and stay under the $165 million luxury tax threshold. It likely would take both Dosunmu and White playing on their qualifying offers.

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