How much will it cost for Bulls to re-sign Nikola Vucevic?

Nikola Vucevic, Chicago Bulls (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
Nikola Vucevic, Chicago Bulls (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /

Considering this has been a heavily rumored topic of debate dating all the way back to this year’s training camp, it’s almost a marvel that Nikola Vucevic has still not come to a contract extension to remain with the Chicago Bulls just yet. After all the draft capital the Bulls handed over to acquire the big man in the first place, it makes sense why the front office would be so interested in bringing Vooch back for the long run.

To determine just how much Vooch could be expected to make on the open market, let’s take a look back at last year’s free agent class to hopefully accurately assess his value. If Vucevic were to re-sign, it would almost assuredly be to remain in a starting role for Chicago, so here’s every big that signed a deal for big money (let’s say, $10 million or more per annum) last summer.

  • Nikola Jokic – 5 years, $264,000,000
  • Karl-Anthony Towns – 4 years, $231,000,000
  • Deandre Ayton – 4 years, $130,000,000
  • Jusuf Nurkic – 4 years, $70,000,000
  • Mitchell Robinson – 4 years, $60,000,000
  • Bobby Portis – 4 years, $49,000,000
  • Marvin Bagley – 3 years, $37,000,000
  • Mo Bamba – 2 years, $21,000,000
  • Nic Claxton – 2 years, $20,000,000

If were to attempt to rank or place Vucevic among these players, he’s very obviously outshined by the top three (and by Claxton, if we’re being honest with ourselves here) on this list. He’s also clearly a much better player right now than Bagley or Bamba, so we’ll be ignoring these players for the time being. I think it’s far more likely we see Vooch re-sign for a deal in the territory of Nurkic, Robinson, or Portis.

It’s important to remember the context here, however, as these three players were aged 27, 23, and 27 when they signed these contracts, respectively. Vucevic, on the other hand, will be 33 years old by the time next season rolls around. For that reason, I’d expect the front office to aim for something more in the ballpark of 2 or 3 years, instead of the full 4.

Arturas Karnisovas also isn’t one to overcommit financially, as we’ve seen him repeatedly negotiate very fair and arguably even team-friendly contracts with DeMar DeRozan, Alex Caruso, and Lonzo Ball. If Vooch is retained on a 3-year deal, I could see him earning anywhere from $40-$50 million, so I’ll meet in the middle and predict a $45 million payday for the big man.

The Chicago Bulls have plenty of hard decisions lying ahead regarding Nikola Vucevic’s potential contract extension.

Between Zach LaVine, DeRozan, Caruso, Ball, Patrick Williams, and Dalen Terry alone, the Chicago Bulls already have over $111 million committed to this core of six players. That number could balloon up to as high as $118 million if both Andre Drummond and Derrick Jones Jr. opt into their player options.

If Chicago retains Vucevic on a deal of this size, that would push the franchise up to a bill of $126-$133 million, right up against the $134 million cap space ceiling for next season.

This means there would be virtually no cap room to sign free agents above the minimum outside of the Mid-Level Exception, especially when the front office is likely to prioritize retaining Chicago’s other impending free agents. Patrick Beverley, Ayo Dosunmu, Coby White, and Javonte Green are all set to hit free agency this summer and would be a big loss for this team to suffer. Unfortunately, there’s just no way the Bulls could afford to re-sign all of these players past this season.

So the cost of re-signing Vucevic doesn’t simply just boil down to his own price tag, but also the opportunity cost of the players Chicago won’t be able to re-sign this summer and the future financial flexibility the team loses by bringing him back.

Sure, $15 million per year for Vooch may seem like a fair deal when measured in a vacuum. But is it really worth committing this many resources to the league’s third-oldest starting center when the Bulls would not only lose key contributors to their current rotation, but also the ability to go out and find an adequate replacement?

Unfortunately, only time will tell on this one. We’ll continue posting any updates regarding Vucevic’s contract negotiations with the Chicago Bulls as they unfold here.

10 best available FAs to fill Bulls last roster spot. dark. Next