Monday, April 22, 2024

Free Agent Nikola Vucevic Says He Will Be “Testing The Market” This Summer


The biggest free-agent decision for the Chicago Bulls this summer will be Nikola Vucevic. The 6’10” two-time All-Star had a bit of a resurgence this year, playing in all 82 games on his way to one of the best seasons of his 12-year career. He was top-five in the NBA in both rebounds and double-doubles and had the seventh-highest defensive rating amongst centers despite the common knock that he’s a liability on that end of the floor. When asked about his looming free agency this summer, he’ll be free to test the market for the first time since the 2019-20′ season when he chose to remain with the Orlando Magic.

Strong Contract Season

Vucevic used some of his savvy experience when answering the season-ending questions, including saying he’d be “testing the market” but that the Bulls would be the first to bid. It was no accident that he played in all 82 games for the first time in his career, had his highest field goal percentage in eight seasons, and played in more minutes per game than the last four years. He knows the more versatile, durable, and efficient he can prove himself at the negotiating table, the more bidders he will have, and the higher the price tags will be presented when the time comes.

What Is The Market?

Vucevic will have many bidders when the time comes, partially due to his skill, experience, and versatility but also because the supply is much more depleted than the demand. Myles Turner inked an extension with the Pacers mid-season, and Kristaps Porzingis’s player option is the only marquee free-agent center alongside Vucevic. After those two, it drops to the level of Jakob Poeltl, Brook Lopez, Naz Reid, and Mason Plumlee, a tier less versatile than the Bulls’ big man but would also require less payday.

Chicago can offer Vucevic up to a four-year, 118.1 million dollar deal this summer, but it might not solely be up to them. He has mentioned wanting to compete in a championship as a career goal of his. Seeing the big three in the Windy City have the most court time of any trio in basketball this season and still never break the .500 mark, it’s tough to rationalize returning to the same core roster with new expectations.

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Bulls Want Him Back

In his postseason pressor, Arturas Karnisovas addressed the free agents that will need to be decided on this summer, including Vucevic. It’ll be worth monitoring to see if his praises reflect in contract negotiations in a few months.

“Vuc’ has been awesome for us, available for all 82 games. He’s a double-double machine. So, he’s a huge part of this team. We hope to re-sign him.

Arturas Karnisovas via NBC Chicago

Other members of the Chicago Bulls would reflect the same message about their starting center, including his co-stars Zach LaVine and DeMar DeRozan.

Ultimately Vucevic’s free agency will come down to his motivation and the factors he’s prioritized. He spoke about how those factors and motivations differ at this career stage, which leaves the door open for interpretation. The doubt that is drawn about his return to the Windy City stems from the failure to complete an extension around the trade deadline, which both sides were openly far apart. His second half was as consistent and stable as his first half, and the team’s success hasn’t improved either, leaving many to wonder how or why the negotiations would produce any new results than the mid-season talks.

Is this the last of Nikola Vucevic in Chicago, or will they reach a common ground for the 32-year-old to return for next season and beyond?

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