Rival Execs Anticipating Former 2-Time All-Star’s Future With Bulls: Report

Chicago Bulls

Getty Zach Lavine #8, DeMar DeRozan #11, and Nikola Vucevic #9 of the Chicago Bulls.

The Chicago Bulls are set to keep one of their own, according to sources around the league.

“The belief among various NBA executives…is that Nikola Vucevic, one of the top free agents on the market, will re-sign with the Chicago Bulls,” wrote Michael Scotto of HoopsHype on June 18. “Vucevic’s projected free agency value, according to those executives, is three years in the $65 million range.”

Vucevic and Bulls executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas have both expressed a desire to strike a new deal and recently began holding discussions.

The Bulls want to ink the former two-time All-Star (2018-19, 2020-21) to a three-year pact, per Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times. And NBC Sports Chicago Bulls insider K.C. Johnson speculated that “three years, $66 to 72 million” would be within the range of a “reasonable” deal.

Vucevic, Scotto notes, cost plenty to acquire including Wendell Carter Jr., Franz Wagner (as the No. 8 overall pick in 2021), and the No. 11 overall pick in the 2023 NBA draft (as a future pick).

“Letting Vucevic walk in free agency would be tough from an optics perspective,” Scotto adds.

Karnisovas has practiced patience since sending out the assets for Vucevic and more to bring in DeMar DeRozan and Lonzo Ball, the latter of whom is on pace to miss his second consecutive full season with a knee injury. The Bulls have only added Patrick Beverley, Goran Dragic, Andre Drummond, and Tristan Thompson as proven additions in the last two transaction windows.

But it’s not just optics driving Karnisovas’ decision-making.

Nikola Vucevic’s Value is in His Durability and Versatility

“One of the more durable centers… he has played three straight seasons of 70-plus games, including 82 this year,” wrote ESPN front office insider Bobby Marks. “His 225 games played ranks eighth among all centers. Vucevic had a career-high 57.6% effective field goal percentage and averaged at least 10 rebounds for a fifth straight season.”

He has also been productive ranking third in double-doubles this past season, averaging 17.6 points, 11.0 rebounds, and 3.2 assists in 2022-23.

The polarizing big man also shot 52% from the floor and a hair under 35% from beyond the arc.

“He’ll be one of the top centers on the marketplace,” reported The Athletic and Stadium’s Shams Charania on ‘Around the Association’ on May 30. “He’s had to adjust his role a little bit…He’s obviously going to be pretty sought after on the open marketplace.”

That value is certainly not lost on the Bulls who would be left with few avenues toward improvement should he walk.

“We’ll see what happens when the time comes to discuss a new contract,” Vucevic told Scotto 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.”

Bulls Center Rotation Potentially Locked In

If things continue to progress with Vucevic at this current rate, the Bulls could have their starting center and his top backup locked in for the 2023-24 season after Drummond said he plans on picking up his $3.4 million player option.

“That’s what my plan is,” Drummond said on the ‘Paper Route’ podcast on June 6. “I think, where I’m at now today and how I feel, I really love being in Chicago.”

This frees Karnsiovas up to focus on other needs like a point guard and three-point shooting.

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