Nikola Vucevic Makes Telling Statement on Bulls Core’s Future

Nikola Vucevic, Chicago Bulls

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

This season will mark the third straight for this core of Chicago Bulls players, headlined by DeMar DeRozan, Zach LaVine, and Nikola Vucevic.

“We know we can do better, and we have to do better,” Vučević said, per Yahoo Sports NBA reporter Jake Fischer on August 31. “And we know it’s kind of our last chance as this core of guys to do something.”

All three players are at different points in their careers, at least when it comes to the Bulls. They played together more than any other trio last season but they posted a below-average net rating and the team finished two games below .500, failing to earn a postseason berth and leaving their future together in doubt.

Vucevic just re-signed on a three-year, $60 million contract on the eve of free agency.

That will keep him under team control through the 2025-26 campaign. LaVine signed a five-year, $215 million max contract last summer that guarantees he is under contract at least as long as Vucevic – Lavine does have a $48.9 million player option for the 2026-27 season.

DeRozan is heading into the final year of his three-year, $81.9 million contract but Bulls general manager Marc Eversley said that he wants to keep the six-time All-Star, DeRozan, in town.

Bulls GM Explains Roster, Future Plans

“DeMar’s been great,” Eversley said, per Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic on August 21. “He’s been terrific for this group, not only on the court but off the court. He’s been a leader. I would love DeMar to be part of this program long term. … We hope Deebo’s back. He’s been an integral part of this program’s success. We hope he is here long term.”

Eversley also relayed why they felt the need to prioritize Vucevic in free agency.

“If Vooch were to go away, how would you replace him? Those options were just not appealing to us,” Eversley said on the “Bulls Talk Podcast” on August 20. So retaining him became the No. 1 goal of the offseason.”

Bulls executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas has also exercised patience with this group despite outside criticism.

Vuevic’s comments paint a very different picture, though.

Bulls Have Shown Signs of a Looming Pivot

The Bulls have notably gauged the trade interest LaVine, making contact with several teams including the New York Knicks and Philadelphia 76ers, though neither progressed beyond the preliminary stages.

They are also said to have checked rival teams’ temperature on trading for DeRozan, though his age and style of play could limit the number of viable suitors.

Even Vucevic’s deal is believed to be movable if the season goes poorly to start.

It’s all been exploratory but the conversations are being had after last season fell short of expectations, as evidenced by Karnisovas’ aggressiveness in pursuing upgrades this offseason. They also have several young players that the front office would surely like to see before having to make long-term decisions on them.

While management has remained positive publicly about this core, Vucevic’s comments may better reflect the reality for the group.