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