Although we’re still a month removed from the start of the NBA free agency period, it seems we’re already getting our first little taste of the action here tonight. Per reports, the Chicago Bulls have already begun discussing contract negotiations with Nikola Vucevic, a decision that is sure to have the fanbase split this summer.
Fresh off averaging 17.6 points, 11 rebounds, and 3.2 assists for the second consecutive season in a row (yes, the exact same averages), the front office seems content to pat themselves on the back for the botched trade that landed him in the first place by extending Vucevic’s contract even further. This report has some fans obviously concerned, considering what it may mean for the franchise moving forward.
Shams Charania of The Athletic was the first to break the news below, claiming extension discussions between Nikola Vucevic and the Chicago Bulls are already well underway.
Despite a very solid season, re-signing Nikola Vucevic to a multi-year deal would be yet another disastrous mistake by the Chicago Bulls.
Now, I’ll kick things off here by making it very clear that I believe it’s important to not fall victim to the sunken cost fallacy. Just because trade Wendell Carter Jr. and two first-rounders for Vucevic was a poor decision then, doesn’t mean the Bulls should hold it personally against Vooch and kick him to the curb because it didn’t work out in their favor. Any decision made now must be made solely based on the merit it holds, and when it comes to re-signing Vucevic, I have to say that at least I do understand the logic at play.
The big man is fresh off a much improved season in terms of efficiency and impact on the court. Despite posting the same averages, Vucevic’s 47.3% field goal percentage and 31.4% three-point percentage rose to 52% and 34.9%, respectively. His shooting wasn’t the only thing to see an uptick, as his Box Plus/Minus rose from +0.9 to +2.7 and his Value over Replacement Player rating also climbed from 1.8 to 3.2. By all accounts, Vooch was far more impactful on both ends of the court.
It should also be noted that Nikola looks to be the best center available in this summer’s free agent market, with only Toronto’s Jakob Poeltl coming even close as a peer. But despite his near All-Star caliber of play this past season, I still feel confident in my assertation that the Bulls should move on from the Montenegrin big man this offseason.
We have yet to see a team built around three offensively oriented players work in the modern NBA of today. With the value of perimeter defense at an all-time high, it’s simply unheard of for a team to invest over $100 million annually in a ‘Big 3’ who are all mediocre at best, and disastrous at worst on the defensive side of things.
As the third-best player of this ‘Big 3’, it makes sense as to why Vucevic would be the obvious scapegoat among fans. While I don’t believe that’s entirely fair, there’s one key problem here that makes it hard to completely dismiss the criticism: Vucevic isn’t getting any younger. Already halfway to 33 years old, we’ve already seen the best of what he has to offer in this league, he won’t be making any dramatic improvements at this point. And it’s for this reason in particular, that I believe committing to him long-term would be an egregious mistake.
The Chicago Bulls front office really destroyed any chance this team had at competing when it made the short-sighted decision to trade for Vucevic in the first place, and prolonging the inevitable here certainly isn’t going to help things. He might be the best center available in free agency, but he’s not the best center for this team.
Instead, the Bulls would be much better off pursuing a younger, more athletic talent that can play stout defense and crash the board. Although many think the era of the prototypical big man has come and gone, we saw just how effective Kevon Looney was in the postseason for Golden State. I believe it would be wise to emulate this here but allocating only a small portion of Chicago’s cap space to a young center, while using the rest of their assets to build a competent team around the true All-Star duo of Zach LaVine and DeMar DeRozan.