With more than 48 hours before the official start of free agency, the Chicago Bulls made a move.
The Bulls agreed with two-time All-Star center Nikola Vucevic on a three-year, $60 million contract extension ahead of the official start of the free agency period on July 1, per ESPN NBA insider Adrian Wojnarowski citing Vuceivc’s agents.
“I’m excited to continue my journey as a Chicago Bull,” said Vučević in a statement released by the team on June 28. “Since I have arrived in Chicago, everyone in the organization has been incredibly welcoming to my family and me. I am motivated more than ever to achieve our mutual goals as a team…We will work harder than ever to bring success to the city of Chicago.”
The Bulls are 92-89 with Vucevic in the lineup. Bulls executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas also gave up a bounty of players and picks to acquire him.
That was one of the reasons that many around the league expected the big man to return to Chicago. But he has also been productive and durable appearing in 155 of a possible 164 games over his two full seasons with the team.
That includes playing in every game this past season.
“Nikola has proven that he is a special player,” said Karnisovas in his statement. “He has produced at an elite level since we acquired him and will remain an integral part of our foundation moving forward. Nikola’s willingness to do whatever is asked of him to help us win, while also being an established veteran leader for our group, makes him a valuable component of the culture of our organization…We are excited to have him continue to be part of our journey.”
Nikola Vucevic Has Proven His Value
In his third season with the Bulls, Vucevic averaged 17.6 points, 11.0 rebounds, and 3.2 assists while shooting 52% from the floor overall and 34.9% from beyond the arc. The numbers put the big man in rare company historically, further adding to his value.
Later in Karnisovas’ statement, he hints at another part of his appeal to the Bulls.
“He is a consummate professional and tremendous teammate, which plays a big role in making us an attractive destination for other players,” Karnisovas said.
Vucevic already helped the Bulls land DeMar DeRozan and Goran Dragic and has not been shy about his role in doing so. A Bulls team that has not always been able to land marquee names could certainly use current players as mouthpieces for prospective free agents. That was a big part of why Karnisovas traded for DeRozan and Vucevic in the first place.
“I want to thank the Reinsdorf family and Artūras for continuing to believe in me,” Vucevic continued. “I also want to thank Bulls fans for the constant support, you guys are the best part about playing in Chicago.
Bulls Methodically Following Through on Plan
Karnisovas has been outspoken in his desire to bring back the core group that has gone 86-78 over the last two seasons. A 40-42 campaign in 2022-23 that culminated in missing the playoffs entirely was the opposite of what Karnisovas said he wanted coming into the season.
But he hung his hat on their 14-9 finish to the season and their fight against the Eastern Conference champion Miami Heat in the Play-In Tournament as reasons for optimism.
In doing so, then following his words with actions, he has certainly put the onus on himself to make the necessary changes to the roster.