Bulls News: LaVine heating up, Vucevic extension talks, more

Zach LaVine, Nikola Vucevic, Chicago Bulls (Photo by Jeff Schear/Getty Images for Haute Living)
Zach LaVine, Nikola Vucevic, Chicago Bulls (Photo by Jeff Schear/Getty Images for Haute Living) /

After dropping three straight games to close out a Western Conference road trip, the Chicago Bulls have sunk all the way to a lowly 9-14 record and now occupy the same territory as those teams actively in pursuit of the No. 1 overall pick and prestigious prospect Victor Wembanyama. To put things lightly, it hasn’t been an ideal start to the year for this Bulls team.

But it isn’t all doom and gloom, as there have been a few silver linings to the season.  DeMar DeRozan still looks like a genuine All-Star, All-NBA caliber player. Patrick Williams is finally displaying a shred of confidence and is improving each week. Javonte green has been a revelation off the bench. And most importantly, Chicago’s big investment is finally starting to pay off.

Bulls News: Zach LaVine is finally looking like himself again

After inking a historically large $215 million contract extension over the summer, it’s easy to see why so many had big expectations for Zach LaVine entering the 2022-23 season. But when the poor performances started rolling in and the team decided to sit LaVine on back-to-backs, many were understandably frustrated about the lack of transparency regarding LaVine’s injury.

As the season has progressed, however, LaVine has gradually looked more confident out there. He’s driving to the hoop far more often in recent games and has been taking a more active role on the defensive side of things.

Averaging a paltry 20.9 points (for his standards, at least) on 40.4% shooting through his first 16 games, many were concerned that the Bulls just made a massive mistake by committing to an injury-riddled player for the next half-decade. LaVine is doing his best to put those fears to rest, as he’s increased his output to 27.7 points on 50.8% from the field over his last three contests. Here’s to hoping the hot streak continues from here, the Bulls may be in big trouble if it doesn’t.

Bulls News: Nikola Vucevic contract extension talks reach grinding halt

Before the season even tipped off, it was widely reported that the Chicago Bulls were looking to retain Nikola Vucevic on a long-term deal for cheap. Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times even reported that active discussions were taking place during training camp.

However, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski believes those discussions have come to a stop in recent weeks. He says, “I think right now with Vučević, those talks on an extension have not really gained any traction.”

I wasn’t a fan of a proposed contract extension back in August, and I’m even less of a fan of it now. Although Nikola has made a few strides in adjusting his attitude on the court to get better looks in the paint, far too many of last year’s problems continue to plague him this season. Although his shooting splits are up across the board, Vooch’s raw scoring output has dipped all the way down to 15.8 points per game ⁠— the second-lowest mark he’s posted since 2014.

There should be better options for the Bulls to pursue in free agency that will help the team get younger, more athletic, and better defensively.

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After watching supposed tanking teams like the Indiana Pacers and Houston Rockets rely on their youth to pull off big wins against the Golden State Warriors and Philadelphia 76ers respectively last night, it’s hard not being at least a little jealous of their trajectory. In contrast, the Bulls are built to win now, yet rest at the 12th seed in the East and possess the 6th worst record in the NBA as a whole.

Without a first-round pick this year or a legitimately promising young core to build upon, the situation is looking increasingly precarious for Chicago’s future. The pressure on the front office is only going to increase if the Bulls don’t start winning games soon, and they’re not going to come easily.

The Bulls won’t have another “easy” game on the schedule until after Christmas, with upcoming meetings with a contingent of playoff hopefuls including the Wizards, Mavericks, Hawks (twice), Timberwolves, Heat, and a whopping three games against the Knicks.

Next. Where are the Bulls going if the core stays intact?. dark