Big Man Nikola Vucevic Pumps Brakes on Bulls’ Offseason Plan

Nikola Vucevic, Chicago Bulls

Getty Nikola Vucevic #9 of the Chicago Bulls.

After suffering yet another loss, one of the Chicago Bulls’ apparent offseason plans could be in jeopardy.

“The situation and direction of the team,” center Nikola Vucevic told Michael Scotto of HoopsHype after the Bulls’ 116-105 loss to the Brooklyn Nets on February 9 when asked what his priorities will be in free agency. “How good can we be? There’s a lot that goes into it, but being on a team that’s trying to win and fight for something is going to be most important for me.”

Vucevic, 32, was the first trade Bulls executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas made in reshaping the Bulls roster. While the marriage has not always been as fruitful as either side had hoped, there has been optimism it would continue.

Karnisovas has expressed optimism in his ability to retain the veteran big man this summer.

“I’m confident [about being able to re-sign him. I mean, he’s having an unbelievable year,” Karnišovas said via the team’s official YouTube channel after the trade deadline passed on February 9. “And you know we want him to be here. I just think that…now that the trade deadline is passed you know this is the group that we’re sticking with and they can go out there and play and put a foot on the gas and put together a run.”

The Bulls have lost four in a row since then putting them on a five-game skid with just one game – on the second leg of a back-to-back against the Milwaukee Bucks – before the All-Star break.

Vucevic is averaging 18.4 points, 14.6 rebounds, and 3.2 assists during this skid.

He, after being mired in trade speculation for the last year and bashed for being the “lesser” end of that lopsided trade, seems open to something different.

Nikola Vucevic Could Test Free-Agent Market

“We’ll see what happens when the time comes to discuss a new contract,” he said. “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.”

Those opportunities were not as apparent at the trade deadline.

Shams Charania of The Athletic telling ‘Waddle & Silvy’ on ESPN 1000 that the Bulls hadn’t made or taken any calls on the two-time All-Star.

Perhaps more significant, while the overall tone is the same, Vucevic has seemed more eager to get a deal done when previously speaking about extending his stay with the Bulls. But whispers of mutual interest in an extension fell by the wayside, possibly, as the season went on with such lackluster results putting the future of this group in question.

“I want to win and see how far I can go in the playoffs, and hopefully, the ultimate goal would be to get to the Finals and compete for a championship. Playing in the playoffs consistently and getting as deep as you can would be the first step, and go from there.”

That is where things could get tricky for the Bulls who currently sit 1.5 games outside the Play-In Tournament field.

Losses Mounting for Inconsistent Bulls

Vucevic declared the Bulls a “really good team” but lamented the fact that they don’t do the things necessary to win on a consistent basis.

He was once the most popular trade candidate but that has shifted to one (or both) of DeMar DeRozan and Zach LaVine both of whom figure to fetch more on the trade market in the offseason.

“If he isn’t extended, DeRozan will be an expiring contract next season,” explains NBC Sports Chicago Bulls insider K.C. Johnson before another trade deadline passed quietly for the Bulls. “LaVine’s continued upward trajectory this season could make him attractive to suitors near the NBA draft in June, the other historically active time for trade talks.”

This time, they found themselves on the wrong end of the ledger in a 117-113 affair.

That is despite holding a 24-point lead at one point. But this has become a troubling trend for the Bulls who were without the injured DeRozan.

There are no clear paths to improvement for the Bulls who would have to thread the needle even more to try and mold a true title contender around this group. What that means for this coming summer and Vucevic’s free agency remains to be seen but just got more interesting.

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