Chicago Bulls center Nikola Vucevic agrees to major extension deal
Chicago, Illinois - Two-time NBA All-Star center Nikola Vucevic is returning to the Chicago Bulls after agreeing to a three-year, $60-million contract extension, his agents told ESPN on Wednesday.
The new deal keeps Vucevic from hitting the open market when the NBA free agency period begins Friday. The 32-year-old would have been among the top available big men after averaging 17.6 points, 11 rebounds, and 3.2 assists while playing in all 82 games in 2022-23, the final season of a four-year, $100-million contract he signed in 2019.
"I’m excited to continue my journey as a Chicago Bull," Vucevic said in a team release. "Since I have arrived in Chicago, everyone in the organization has been incredibly welcoming to my family and me. I am motivated more than ever to achieve our mutual goals as a team."
Vucevic will be entering his third full season with Chicago after the Bulls acquired him from the Orlando Magic at the trade deadline in March 2021. He put together his best season that year by averaging a career-high 23.4 points along with 11.7 rebounds and 3.8 assists in 70 games.
The 12-year veteran, along with star scorers Zach LaVine and DeMar DeRozan, helped the Bulls end a four-year playoff drought the following season.
Though Chicago missed the playoffs this past season, Vucevic put up identical numbers to his 2021-22 per-game averages in points, rebounds, and assists while shooting 52% from the field, his highest rate since 2014-15.
Nikola Vucevic considered a top offseason priority for the Bulls
Vucevic has averaged a points-rebounds double-double in five consecutive seasons and owns a solid 34.8% career average on 3-point attempts. The 2011 first-round pick has averaged 17 points, 10.5 rebounds, and 2.8 assists in 823 career regular-season games.
"During his time in Chicago, Nikola has proven that he is a special player both on and off the court," Bulls executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnsiovas said. "He has produced at an elite level since we acquired him and will remain an integral part of our foundation moving forward."
"Nikola’s willingness to do whatever is asked of him to help us win, while also being an established veteran leader for our group, makes him a valuable component of the culture of our organization. He is a consummate professional and tremendous teammate, which plays a big role in making us an attractive destination for other players. We are excited to have him continue to be part of our journey."
Retaining Vucevic was considered a top offseason priority for Karnisovas, who paid a high price to acquire the Montenegro native two years ago. Chicago sent talented young center Wendell Carter Jr. to Orlando in the trade along with two first-round picks, one of which was used on rising star Franz Wagner.
While bringing back Vucevic solidifies Chicago's frontcourt, Karnisovas still has big decisions to make regarding the backcourt with point guard Lonzo Ball expected to miss a second straight season with a career-threatening knee injury. Fellow guard Coby White, the Bulls' top bench scorer last season, will be a restricted free agent.
Cover photo: JARED C. TILTON / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / GETTY IMAGES VIA AFP