Nikola Vucevic

Report: Bulls, Nikola Vucevic ‘opened' extension talks

The Bulls and Vucevic have until June 30 to come to an agreement on an extension

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The Bulls and Nikola Vucevic "have opened" talks regarding a contract extension, according to The Athletic's Shams Charania. 

Vucevic, 32, finished the four-year $100 million contract the Bulls acquired from the Orlando Magic at the 2020-21 trade deadline this past season. He made $22 million from that contract this year.

NBC Sports Chicago's K.C. Johnson believes Vucevic will ask for a raise on his extension, considering he's coming off a season where he played all 82 games and finished third in the NBA for double-doubles. 

MORE: Bulls mailbag: Will Big 3 return? What's fair Vucevic deal?

Johnson offered a short-term, two-year $48-50 million, or three-year $66-72 million contract as possible figures for Vucevic's next deal. The Bulls and Vucevic have until June 30 to come to an agreement. If a deal isn't done, Vucevic becomes an unrestricted free agent. 

The news of the Bulls and Vucevic engaging in contract talks won't bring ear-to-ear grins to Bulls fans' faces. Consider this, however. The best free agent centers this offseason include Brook Lopez, Kristaps Porzingis (player option) and Jakob Poeltl. The next best name after those is Kevin Love, who is mainly a role player. 

Vucevic is a double-double machine with great rebounding skills and elite scoring advantages. Unfortunately, he hasn't found his rhythm in an offense with Zach LaVine and DeMar DeRozan, who are both ball-dominant scorers. 

Plus, his rim-protecting abilities are well below average for a starting center. Sure, his defensive rating of 109.5 since joining the Bulls is sublime, but it doesn't tell the whole story. His rebounding numbers boost his defensive numbers, providing a slight fallacy to his defensive stature. 

But if the Bulls can figure out how to better involve Vucevic in their offense while surrounding him with self-sufficient defenders, it would make for a worthwhile investment. The Bulls covet Vucevic's skillset and veteran leadership and they haven't been shy about expressing that. 

They traded Wendell Carter, Otto Porter Jr. and two first-round picks, which became Franz Wagner in 2021 and the No. 11 pick in the upcoming 2023 draft,  for Vucevic. They paid a hefty price to acquire him. Letting him walk in free agency would relegate the Bulls' assets. 

It remains to be seen whether or not the Bulls keep the entirety of the big three. 

In conjunction with his mailbag, Johnson reported rival executives are skeptical the Bulls and LaVine will complete the rest of his five-year maximum deal worth $215 million. 

And what about DeRozan? His game clearly collides with that of LaVine's and he has one more year left on his deal. This all remains to be seen this summer. But don't be surprised if the front office grips onto their continuity calling card. 

"The Bulls are not trying to tear anything down right now," former assistant general manager, Pat Garrity, said on Stadium. "They're trying to remain competitive. This is their best option right now keeping one of their primary options under contract with them.

"I think that without another option it really vaults your team up to another level. You keep the starters together and you try to build marginally around them if you can until you make a decision that you want to go in a different direction."  ​

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