The Chicago Bulls continue to be fans of what center Nikola Vucevic brings to this group and are looking to continue that relationship if the price is right. Vucevic was the first major personnel move Bulls vice president Arturas Karnisovas made.
Now, the Chicago Sun-Times’ Joe Cowley reports that there is mutual interest in keeping this relationship going beyond the 2022-23 season.
Vucevic is heading into the final year of his contract.
He will also turn 32 years old early in the season and did not exactly adjust well on the floor to being the third option on a contending team. Still, there are reasons beyond his fit with the Bulls for doing this deal and we may have a pretty good idea of what it will look like.
For the Right Price
Cowley points out that some of the criticism towards Vucevic is “misguided, but understandable”. He also says that, despite fan opinion, the 11-year veteran remains very much in the Bulls’ plans.
Both sides want him to stay with the team beyond the last year of his contract this coming season and will have initial discussions on what that might look like when training camp begins in the fall.
Why? Because if the price is right, Vucevic remains the type of player who fits in with how the Bulls were built on both ends of the floor.
As Cowley notes, it’s not like Vucevic is coming off of one of his better seasons. But he was third on the team with 73 appearances last season. He was also one of only three players to average at least 17 points and 11 rebounds this past season while also making 70-plus appearances.
So what exactly is the right price that both rewards Vucevic for what he has brought to the team while also baking in a possible pivot in direction for the Bulls?
NBC Sports’ Kurt Helin has an idea of what that may be.
“Would a two-year, $36-$38 million extension work for both sides? That would make Vucevic still very tradable for the Bulls (especially if he finds his 3-point shot again) but pay him about the average of centers of similar impact. With the rising salary cap, the Bulls may be open to two years, $40 million.”
The suggested length of the contract would take Vucevic through his age-34 season and would fit some rough framework offered by Cowley.
An Eastern Conference GM also told Heavy’s Sean Deveney that the Bulls “have to extend” Vucevic to avoid losing him next summer.
Health a Big Factor for Vucevic
Health is very important for Vucevic, but not necessarily his own. His numbers with and without Ball show the huge impact having a capable point guard can have. Per Cleaning The Glass, Vucevic’s net rating is 7.2 points better with Ball on the floor than without.
Interestingly, Vucevic’s offense was 2.5 points worse with Ball in the lineup.
But the defensive ace helped keep guards (and the ball) away from his big man in the paint leading to a massing 9.7-point swing in Vucevic’s defensive rating.
Karnisovas and head coach Billy Donovan praised Vucevic for his versatility and his durability amid a season rife with injury. But Cowley acknowledges that it will take a bounceback from the two-time All-Star to quiet trade talk from the masses.
Helin’s comments suggest that signing an extension would not guarantee that Vucevic is not traded away.
At the right price, or course.