Bulls Make Critical Decision on Nikola Vucevic’s Future: Report

Nikola Vucevic, Chicago Bulls

Getty Nikola Vucevic #9 of the Chicago Bulls.

Actions speak louder than words and Chicago Bulls executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas is backing up his statements regarding center Nikola Vucevic.

“Sources tell me that the Bulls and Nikola Vucevic have opened up extension conversations,” reported Stadium’s Shams Charania on ‘Around the Association’ on May 30. “There’s mutual interest in getting a deal done.”

Per Charania, Vucevic and the Bulls have until June 30 to agree on a contract extension.

Vucevic is eligible to sign a deal worth up to $118 million over four years per Tyler Conway of Bleacher Report. If they fail to reach an agreement on a new deal, the two-time All-Star will hit unrestricted free agency which he has said he will approach with an open mind which he has even said could include going back to the Orlando Magic, albeit down the road.

Just this past season, Vucevic was one of five players to average at least 17.0 points and 11.0 rebounds, the only center to appear in all 82 games, and finished third in double-doubles.

Karnisovas, who has long-valued Vucevic’s durability, also noted his consistency.

“We’ll see what happens when the time comes to discuss a new contract,” Vucevic told Michael Scotto of HoopsHype on February 9. “I feel good here. I’m in a good place. If they want to continue, we can come to an agreement. I’d consider it for sure, but also, being a free agent, I’ll have opportunities to look at other stuff.”

NBC Sports Chicago Bulls insider K.C. Johnson laid out his idea of what could be a fair deal.

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

Former Pistons Exec: Nikola Vucevic Bulls’ ‘Best Option’

“The Bulls are not trying to tear anything down right now,” said former Detroit Pistons assistant general manager Pat Garrity in response to Charania. “They’re trying to remain competitive. This is their best option right now: keeping one of their primary offensive weapons under contract with them.”

Chicago’s top trio played more minutes than any other in the NBA and produced a minus-0.4 net rating. Their second most-used three-player grouping consisted of LaVine, Vucevic, and Patrick Williams played the sixth-most minutes and sported a minus-1.5 net rating.

“If things go in a different direction a year or two down the road, given the contract is reasonable, and there’s multiple years on it, it’ll be easy to move,” said Garrity.

Karnisovas paid a steep price to land Vucevic ahead of the 2021 trade deadline.

While that may be playing some part in his aggressiveness in trying to re-sign Vucevic, it is also what teams in the Bulls’ situation do.

“Without another option that really vaults your team up to a new level, you keep the starters together,” Garrity said. “And then you try to build marginally around them if you can until you’re ready to make a decision to go in a different direction.”

Adding on the margins was a theme for Karnisovas last summer before continuity took over.

Nikola Vucevic ‘Will Be Highly Sought After’ in Free Agency

Things have not always been smooth for Vucevic, going from the top option to the third option in Chicago most nights.

That might have just shown potential suitors how pliable his game is.

“He’ll be one of the top centers on the marketplace,” Charania said. “He’s had to adjust his role a little bit with DeMar DeRozan, Zach LaVine here in Chicago. He’s obviously going to be pretty sought after on the open marketplace.”

Vucevic could run into an issue where the teams that can afford him are not ready to compete just yet, but it might also simply be in the Bulls’ best interest to get this deal done.

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