Chicago has its core locked up. They just max extended Zach LaVine, plus the trio of DeMar DeRozan, Lonzo Ball and Alex Caruso are locked up for this season and next. Patrick Williams becomes extension eligible after this season if the Bulls want to secure his services as well.
Then there is Nikola Vucevic, who was once considered part of that core but now draws more shrugs. The former All-Star center averaged 17.6 points and 11 rebounds a game last season, and he can space the floor as a pick-and-pop big (although he shot 31.4% from 3 last season), but he is not a shot blocker, doesn’t move well laterally, and is a target on the defensive end. He does not look like the center of the future in Chicago.
But they might extend him anyway at the right price, according to a report from Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times.
…a source said both sides want him to stay with the team beyond the last year of his contract this coming season and will have initial discussions on what that might look like when training camp begins in the fall.
Why? Because if the price is right, Vucevic remains the type of player who fits in with how the Bulls were built on both ends of the floor.
While the Bulls may want to consider a trade for a center such as Myles Turner if the goal is to make a leap up the standings in the East (the Bulls were mentioned as Rudy Gobert suitors), that will not be easy due to a lack of first-round picks they can send out (their 2023 and 2025 first-rounders were sent to Orlando to acquire Vucevic in the first place).
Which is why Vucevic may be a smart extension at the right price — but what is that price? He is set to make $22 million this season, the final year of a four-year, $100 million contract (signed with the Magic). That salary puts Vucevic in the earnings ballpark of Turner, Jarrett Allen, Clint Capela, and a little above Jusuf Nurkic.
Would a two-year, $36-$38 million extension work for both sides? That would make Vucevic still very tradable for the Bulls (especially if he finds his 3-point shot again) but pay him about the average of centers of similar impact. With the rising salary cap, the Bulls may be open to two years, $40 million.
Whatever the number, don’t be shocked if the sides get a deal done. The added security makes sense for both the team and the player.