With every mounting loss while the Chicago Bulls‘ (19-23) record remains below .500, speculation about what the future holds will only grow more intense. Their 100-97 loss to the Washington Wizards gave them back-to-back losses and four losses in their last seven games with a three-game winning streak in the middle.
The name that most often comes up for the Bulls in trade rumors has been Nikola Vucevic who is in the final year of his contract and heading for unrestricted free agency. Vucevic’s future has been a matter of speculation since the summer, a trend that should continue amid the Bulls’ slide.
He is not immune to looking ahead, especially at this point in his career.
Vucevic joined “The Sixth Man Show” on January 9 and opened up about his future, specifically about potentially going back to where it all began.
Nikola Vucevic Open to Orlando Return
“Of course,” the 12-year veteran and former 16th overall pick of the Philadelphia 76ers responded when asked if he would be open to returning to the Orlando Magic in the future as he plays the season with no contract extension on the horizon. “I think it’s only right it happens…That’s something for sure that’s on my mind. I can’t say it’s not.”
Vucevic spent eight full seasons with the Magic after being traded earning two All-Star nods.
Chicago acquired Vucevic at the 2020 trade deadline in exchange for Al-Farouq Aminu, Wendell Carter Jr, and a pair of first-round picks the first of which Orlando turned into impressive youngster Franz Wagner — a deal that has been bashed ad nauseam.
Vucevic’s tenure with the Bulls has been marred by inconsistency both individually and from the parts around him.
He has played better this season even if his numbers have dipped for a second straight year.
“When you have to do what…‘Vooch’ is doing, it’s not possible to live up to previous expectations,’’ teammate Goran Dragic said per Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times. “There’s only one ball, and three guys that can score. Each guy can score in different ways from a different position”.
Vucevic, 32, had 15 points, 10 rebounds, five assists, and two blocks against Washington.
He is averaging 16.9 points, 10.9 rebounds, and 3.0 assists this season all of which are down from last year. But he is doing it on a career-best 60.8% true shooting and canning 38.3% of his looks from beyond the arc, the second-highest mark of his career.
Perhaps that is why Vucevic leaned so heavily into a down-the-road approach in his answer about returning to Orlando.
“That’s something that I would love to do at some point, maybe,” he said. “We’ll see when that is possible if that’s realistic and how it all works out. But yea for sure. I would like to, if anything, at least get one last year in Orlando.”
Orlando is also already laden with quality big men drafting Paolo Banchero first overall in the 2022 NBA Draft as well as developing Bol Bol and retaining Mo Bamba this summer.
Any return to Orlando for Vucvic could mean a supporting role off the bench.
Nikola Vucevic Is Not the Only One
Vucevic’s backup, Andre Drummond, also waxed poetically about his old stomping grounds, He signed as a free agent with the Bulls this past summer but was traded to the Brooklyn Nets along with Ben Simmons ahead of the deadline last season.
“I’m sad that we had to break things up in February, Drummond said per Ky Carlin of Sixers Wire. “I definitely miss playing here. I had a lot of fun playing for Doc, somebody who I’ve known since a boy and have so much respect for him so to have the chance to play for him was awesome for me. The city of Philadelphia, man, the fan base is one of a kind. I loved it here.”
It is important to note that this is not a complaint about his current situation.
Still, Drummond is one of several pieces that could interest a contending team if the Bulls continue to falter making him, like Vucevic, someone to watch ahead of the deadline.