Nikola Mirotic, Bulls agree to two-year contract day before training camp

Negotiations took longer than both sides anticipated. But Nikola Mirotic will report to Monday's media day activities that start Bulls training camp in the manner everyone predicted.

The restricted free agent agreed to a two-year, $27 million deal Sunday that contains a team option in the second season, two sources familiar with the deal confirmed.

Both sides received something of value in the drawn-out talks.

A source said Mirotic will make $12.5 million this season, which is $5.3 million more guaranteed money than the qualifying offer he could've signed to become an unrestricted free agent next offseason. By virtue of the team option, Mirotic also can't be traded this season without his agreement.

The 26-year-old forward also gets to remain in Chicago — where he always wanted to be and spent much of the offseason working out — and will be an unrestricted free agent either in 2018 or 2019 with a chance at more guaranteed money.

The Bulls get another season to decide if Mirotic, who has averaged 10.8 points per game in three inconsistent seasons, fits in their future plans. They can either cut bait with him next summer — when they project to be one of the few teams with more than $50 million of salary cap space — or take his very tradable deal into the 2018-19 season.

The Bulls also briefly surpassed the NBA's minimum salary requirement with the deal before news of Dwyane Wade's buyout, although the only penalty for not doing so is redistributing the shortfall to currently contracted players. After the Wade buyout, the Bulls now have 13 guaranteed contracts, as well as the non-guaranteed deals of David Nwaba and Diamond Stone. Antonio Blakeney and Ryan Arcidiacono are on two-way deals.

The Bulls now have about $16 million in salary cap space. Or they could operate as an over-the-cap team, with roughly $11.5 million remaining from the Jimmy Butler trade exception. Either way, this means they can still take on salary during the season.

Mirotic, who will be the Bulls' second-highest-paid player behind Robin Lopez, bulked up this offseason. He'll challenge Bobby Portis and Lauri Markkanen for the starting power forward spot.

Though the $15-16 million annual salary Mirotic sought never materialized in a mostly frigid restricted free agency market, he landed where he wanted to be. Acquired via a draft-night trade in 2011, Mirotic has shot 35 percent from 3-point range while displaying glaring inconsistencies from game to game.

Mirotic endured an extremely turbulent 2016-17 season. Fined in December for uncharacteristically forgetting about and missing a pregame walk-through, Mirotic saw his name appear in multiple trade rumors leading up to the February deadline and even landed on the inactive list for three games in March.

But he returned to the starting lineup and held that position through the first-round playoff loss to the Celtics. Through it all, Mirotic remained consistent about his desire to remain in Chicago.

"I love the Bulls," he said. "I love my teammates. I love the city. It's the perfect place for me. The first idea is to re-sign."

Mirotic's signing and Dwyane Wade's contract buyout Sunday night leaves the health of Zach LaVine as the main storyline heading into training camp.

LaVine tore his left ACL in February and, while ahead of schedule in his recovery, is the centerpiece of the Butler trade. Thus, the Bulls have said they will proceed conservatively with the high-flying guard.

kcjohnson@chicagotribune.com

Twitter @kcjhoop

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