Nikola Vucevic

The Athletic's contract evaluator defines Nikola Vučević as a mid-level exception player

However, insiders predict Vucevic will ask and receive somewhere between $25-30 million range

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One of the Bulls many decisions the front office needs to make this offseason is deciding how they'd like to handle Nikola Vučević's contract situation.

Vučević is an unrestricted free agent. Though, he has expressed his interest in staying with the Bulls. Seeing as he is a free agent, however, The Athletic took the liberty of using their BORD$ method -- a contract value projection system -- to rank the top free agent centers heading into next season.

The method defined Vučević as a mid-level exception caliber player, worth around $8.6 million per year. Yikes.

"Vooch is still a talented offensive player, but his 40 percent 3-point season in 2020-21 now looks like a major outlier, and defensively, he’s a popular target for opposing schemes," NBA expert John Hollinger wrote. "Vučević has a soft touch inside the arc and shot 59.4 percent on 2s last season, but draws shockingly few fouls for a high-usage big man. Among qualifying centers, only Al Horford had a lower rate of free-throw attempts per field goal attempt than Vučević’s .138.

"It seems likely the Bulls bring back Vučević and run it back, given that they don’t have a ton of other options. This estimate is probably on the low side, but given his age and the alignment of Chicago’s contracts, something for two years at or slightly above MLE money ($25 million to $30 million) seems about right."

NBC Sports Chicago's Bulls Insider, K.C. Johnson, predicted a similar contract valuation for Vučević as Hollinger.

"I think a good solution might be to do a short-term deal at slightly above his 2022-23 salary. Say, two years and $48-50 million or three years at $66-72 million," Johnson wrote.

MORE: Bulls mailbag: Will Big 3 return? What's fair Nikola Vučević deal?

The free agent market for centers is lowly. Does that give Vučević more value in the open market? Maybe. Does that mean the Bulls should re-sign him, given there aren't many alternate options at center? That seems likely.

The other names The Athletic -- or BORD$ -- ranked above Vučević were Kristaps Porziņģis -- who can opt into a $36 million season with the Washington Wizards -- Jakob Poeltl, Christian Wood, Brook Lopez and Dwight Powell.

Contract-wise, Johnson argued Vučević will certainly ask for more than the $22 million he earned last season. He flashed his durability, playing all 82 games, and finished third in the NBA for the most double doubles last season.

Obviously, Vučević has a pivotal role with the Bulls and their pending decision to re-sign him, or any of the Big 3, will dictate the direction the Bulls want to go in the future.

It'd be malpractice to let Vučević walk for nothing. They spent two first-round picks on him during the 2021 trade deadline. If he's not coming back, the front office will almost likely try to sign-and-trade him to his next destination.

But if Vučević doesn't return in any capacity, it'd be fair to ponder the presence of Zach LaVine and DeMar DeRozan. If they don't plan on running back the same core -- or can't afford to do so -- it's justifiable to wonder what's next for the Bulls.

That question will soon be answered, as NBA free agency officially opens July 6. Stay tuned.

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