Bulls, Nikola Vucevic agree on three-year contract extension

Vucevic was transparent about where he wanted to play; he always started with staying a Bull. That will happen after the sides agreed to a $60 million deal.

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The Bulls and Nikola Vucevic agreed to a three-year, $60 million contract on Wednesday, before the big man could hit the free-agent market.

The Bulls and Nikola Vucevic agreed to a three-year, $60 million contract on Wednesday, before the big man could hit the free-agent market.

Frank GunnThe Canadian Press via AP

Days after the Pacers gave center Myles Turner a two-year, $60 million contract extension in January, Nikola Vucevic was asked about how much he should get with his own free agency pending.

“It’s pretty well-known around the league what I can do, what I bring to the table,’’ Vucevic told the Sun-Times. “That’s great for Myles, but I don’t try and compare myself to other guys where, ‘Hey, this is what he got, this is what I should get.’ . . . I’m more individual in the way I think about it.’’

And the Bulls should be very thankful.

In what really should be labeled a hometown discount, the Bulls announced Wednesday that they signed the 32-year-old to a three-year extension. A source confirmed reports that the deal is worth $60 million.

“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 Karnisovas said in a statement. “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.’’

The Sun-Times reported last month that Vucevic was looking for a three-year deal and that he was hoping to get it done before free agency starts Friday.

Staying with the Bulls was always his priority, but he indicated that he would like to see a few changes.

A source said that Vucevic had several conversations with coach Billy Donovan about how he was used in the offense; that came up in the negotiations. Vucevic would like to see more touches, allowing him to be a playmaker or attack in the paint, especially when he feels he has a mismatch.

Far too often, Vucevic would get a smaller guard or wing switched onto him, and that mismatch was ignored. Donovan specifically pointed out several times this past season that his ballhandlers missed opportunities to feed the big man in those situations.

Expect that to change this season, with Karnisovas already insisting that he wants the team’s overall shot profile to change.

Vucevic played in all 82 regular-season games in 2022-23, averaging 17.6 points, 11 rebounds and 3.2 assists while shooting just under 35% from three-point range.

Vucevic became the fourth player in Bulls history with at least 50 double-doubles in a season, joining Artis Gilmore, Charles Oakley and Pau Gasol. He was the only player in the league to make at least 100 three-pointers (121) and grab 800-plus rebounds (903) this past season.

More good news for the Bulls: If they’re uncomfortable with the direction of the team over the next few seasons, the contract is very movable.

Looking ahead, Karnisovas said Coby White and Ayo Dosunmu would be tendered qualifying offers, which will make them restricted free agents, allowing the Bulls to match any offers. The other focus will be on adding outside shooting off the bench.

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