Details Emerge on Potential Contract Extension for Bulls’ Nikola Vucevic: Report

Nikola Vucevic, Chicago Bulls

Getty Nikola Vucevic #9 of the Chicago Bulls.

The Chicago Bulls have decided on how to proceed with Nikola Vucevic.

“The Bulls are looking to lock up the big man for the next three years,” wrote Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times on June 2.

We received word of the Bulls’ opening talks with Vucevic on a potential extension from The Athletic’s Shams Charania on Stadium’s ‘Inside the Association’ on May 30. Both sides’ interest in a new deal was also previously reported, though those talks only recently began.

But Cowley’s note on the Bulls’ target length for a potential contract could offer some insight into their plans for the rest of the roster.

“Vucevic, one of the more durable centers, turns 33 in October,” wrote ESPN front office insider Bobby Marks. “He has played three straight seasons of 70-plus games, including 82 this year. His 225 games played ranks eighth among all centers. Vucevic had a career-high 57.6% effective field goal percentage and averaged at least 10 rebounds for a fifth straight season.”

The Bulls also have a lot invested in Vucevic which could factor into their logic.

Executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas traded a package including Wendell Carter Jr., the No. 8 overall pick that became Franz Wagner, and the No. 11 overall pick in the 2023 NBA draft (as a future first) to the Orlando Magic for him.

And, as Marks notes, the Bulls have scant few options to replace the two-time All-Star if he walks away in free agency.

They would only have the full midlevel exception worth $10.5 million, per Spotrac.

Making the Dollars Make Sense for Nikola Vucevic’s Contract

“I think a good solution might be to do a short-term deal at slightly above his 2022-23 salary,” NBC Sports Chicago Bulls insider K.C. Johnson wrote in his mailbag from May 25. “Say, two years and $48-50 million or three years at $66-72 million.”

“The challenge here becomes what kind of extension are we talking about,” said Keith Smith on ‘The NBA Front Office Podcast’ on June 1. “Anything that’s more than two years in length, I’m probably not overly interested in.”

Smith did suggest a deal with two years guaranteed and adding the third as either partially or non-guaranteed as a possible exception. He also floated the idea of the Bulls overpaying Vucevic on a one-year deal. Perhaps the Bulls could spread out that overpay a bit with a partial guarantee in the second year while the third is non-guaranteed.

Vucevic is eligible to sign an extension worth $118 million over four years, according to Tyler Conway of Bleacher Report.

Either way, they appear to be set on continuity for another offseason.

Lonzo Ball a Long Shot to Return

“Project “Blow Up’’ is not an option, writes Cowley. “The organization is content to hold out hope for a miraculous Lonzo Ball recovery from three surgeries on his left knee, while beginning negotiations on Nikola Vucevic’s contract extension over the last week.”

Waiting for Ball to return could be where the Bulls’ plan truly falls apart if they are acting on that hope rather than their gut feeling.

“Even though publicly there has been an expression of guarded optimism regarding a future for Lonzo Ball…They don’t think it’s likely that he ever plays again,” said Chicago radio personality Dan Bernstein on the ‘Organizations Wins Championships’ podcast on May 28 citing sources with knowledge of the situation.

Ball underwent ligament replacement surgery in March and is expected to miss most if not all of the 2023-24 season. But no NBA player has ever been able to return from such a procedure with Brandon Roy and Festus Ezeli the two most-popular comparisons.

While Ball’s procedure is said to be a unique instance, that doesn’t necessarily help his cause.

The Bulls have to plan accordingly and if Ball returning in enough time to maximize this core is one of their driving factors, their offseason could already be mostly done.

Comment Here
Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments