What Did Nikola Vucevic and Coby White Say About Their Looming Free Agency?

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Coby White and Nikola Vucevic Are About to Be Free Agents – Here’s What They Think About That

Chicago Bulls

Deciding what the future holds for Nikola Vucevic and Coby White is undoubtedly at the top of the Chicago Bulls’ offseason to-do list.

Both White and Vucevic are headed toward free agency. White, in particular, will be a restricted free agent after failing to meet a contract extension with the Bulls last offseason. This means the organization will have the right to match any contract another team offers him. And, after the season White just had, I do expect them to (at the very least) do that.

White technically averaged the fewest minutes per game of his career, but there’s no question he also played the most well-rounded basketball of his career. We saw him make real strides with both his defensive execution and ball handling. His jumper also remained strong with a 37.2 percent success rate from downtown.

We saw White play especially strong basketball to close out the season, which played a significant role in the Bulls’ ability to sneak back into the Play-In Tournament. He averaged 13.6 points and roughly 5.0 assists over his last 15 games, shooting an extremely encouraging 52.3 percent from the field.

Now, I know the last thing we want is for this front office to put too much stock into 15 games. But, again, White’s play has been far more stable all season long. He’s passed the eye test with his in-game management and late-game shotmaking, and the actual last thing we want is for the Bulls to give up a 23-year-old showing that level of improvement.

White also said all the right things when asked about his desire to stay in Chicago at his end-of-season press conference, making clear that he hopes to return.

“It’s new for me, being a restricted free agency. I hope it works out for the best. I love Chicago. I love my teammates. I love the front office,” White said. “So I would like to be back, but a lot of that is out of my control. It’s a business, at the end of the day. I understand decisions have to be made. So, if I’m back, great. But, if I’m not, you got to live with it.”

Very much unlike White, Vucevic will enter the upcoming market as one of the top unrestricted free agents. While he started to begin a new phase of his career as he joined Chicago, he has still proven to be a double-double machine. Not to mention, Vucevic is fresh off easily the most efficient shooting season of his career while playing a career-high 82 games.

On an individual level, he has shown real progress in his ability to fit into a tertiary or complementary role. I do expect that to lead to quite a bit of interest across the NBA when free agency opens up. And Vucevic wasn’t shy about saying that he will consider what the rest of the league has to offer.

“For me, obviously, the Bulls will have priority,” Vucevic said. “I would like to stay here, but that’s on the front office to decide … That’s as much as I can say. I’ll be a free agent. I’ll see what else is out there. Obviously, I’ll test the market. But, like I said, I’ve been here two and a half years now. I like my time here.”

I do believe that Vucevic will give the Bulls’ front office every chance to re-sign him, but whether or not that leads to it getting done isn’t a gimme. I just don’t expect the big man to budge on whatever his asking price will be, especially after he put together a much better second full season in Chicago. While he went on to say that several factors outside of money will play a role in his decision, this also could be one of his last real chances to secure a sizable, long-term deal.

Indeed, Vucevic could very well be the best center on the market. Some might opt for DPOY candidate Brook Lopez, but he’s also three years older. Jakob Poeltl is a name that has garnered a lot of interest over the past couple of years, but the Raptors are likely set to re-sign him after trading for him at the deadline. Vucevic – just 32 years old and seemingly very dependable – could catch the eye of several suitors.

“I think it’s too soon to say now,” Vucevic said at his end-of-season press conference about what the market might look like for him. “It will all depend on how certain teams do in the playoffs, the draft, a lot of stuff going on until free agency starts. I never really look ahead that much … Even now, I won’t think about it too much. That’s something more for my agents to do and talk to me and see. But I think there is a lot of time still before those talks really start happening.”

I’m really going back and forth on whether or not I believe Vucevic is back in a Bulls jersey. On one hand, there isn’t anyone better you’re going to get in free agency or in a sign-and-trade, so keeping him seems like the right move. On the other hand, this current version of the Bulls’ roster simply isn’t working. If you’re keeping him around, will you be prepared to make a different drastic change?

Boy, I’m glad I’m not in the front office!

Author: Elias Schuster

Elias Schuster is the Lead Bulls Writer at Bleacher Nation. You can follow him on Twitter @Schuster_Elias.