One year removed from having a relatively deep center rotation that included Nikola Vucevic, Andre Drummond, Tony Bradley, and Marko Simonovic, the Chicago Bulls entered an uncertain offseason with none of these players on a guaranteed contract beyond this year. Fortunately, the first domino fell tonight as Vucevic has re-upped with the Bulls on a deal that’s sure to ignite debate among the fanbase.
Vucevic’s new contract is for three years and will take him through the 2025-26 campaign, with a total value of $60 million. On an average annual salary of $20 million, Vucevic is far from an overpay, but it’s certainly not the great steal of a deal that fans had hoped for when he suggested he’d be willing to take a discount to remain with the Bulls.
Shams Charania of The Athletic was the first to break this news, with ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski soon corroborating the report thereafter.
The Chicago Bulls’ decision to bring Nikola Vucevic back on a three-year deal proves the front office is content with mediocrity.
With virtually no market for Vucevic at the moment, it is a bit confusing that the Bulls were so willing to cough up a big payday for an aging veteran that doesn’t bring this team further to contention. Sure, an above-average center may be worth around $20 million in today’s NBA, but the fact the front office was unable to utilize any of its leverage in negotiations makes this significantly harder to stomach.
As far as we know, there was virtually no market for Vooch. Only six teams had cap space in excess of $20 million to spend this summer, the Rockets, Spurs, Pacers, Pistons, Jazz, and Magic. None of these aforementioned teams have a real need at the center position nor or actively trying to compete now. Considering Vucevic has repeatedly expressed his primary desire is to compete for a championship, it’s hard imagining a scenario where he ditches the Bulls for any of these destinations.
Instead of building a younger, more athletic, and more cost-effective roster (Naz Reid’s three-year, $42 million deal sure looks great now, huh?), the Bulls are now locked back into the same core that has disappointed our expectations as fans two consecutive seasons in a row. This isn’t even a case of re-signing an asset to trade it later either, as Vucevic already holds practically zero trade value and things will only look more grim as Vucevic creeps toward his 35th birthday by the end of this contract.
With little hope of making a real playoff run and a roster too talented to commit to a rebuild, the Bulls are stuck in the mud now more than ever before.