Nikola Vucevic extended on the table, probably necessary for the bulls

The Nikola Vucevic center was an easy target for Bulls fans last season.

At 6-10 and probably a few summers away from entering the daddy zone, the anger from the fan base was understandable. Misleading in many ways, but understandable.

After all, Vucevic was considered the main leg of the tripod on which the Bulls’ heart was built. And with DeMar DeRozan having a season MVP and Zach LaVine still good at 24 points per game, it was Vucevic’s numbers that caught the eye – and not in a good way.

Vucevic averaged 17.6 points, his lowest since the 2017-18 season with the Magic, and his 31.4% shot from a three-point range was the worst since he added the long-range shot to his arsenal six years ago.

Forget the fact that Vucevic’s touches were fewer than his first 28 games for the Bulls the previous season and far less than his days with Magic – nearly five fewer shots per game than the 2020-21 season. Fans want production, not excuses.

Then there was his defense. Vucevic was never considered a rim guard, but when the Bulls’ defensive backcourt started showing up in the practice room daily, his defensive deficiencies were fully visible, especially in pick-and-roll.

Vucevich admitted that he was taking his offensive errors to the defensive side of the ball during the first half of last season, and that’s never a good look.

That’s why Vucevic’s trading became so popular on social media at the start of the season.

BREAKING NEWS: Vucevich is still with the bulls.

Not only is he still with the Bulls, but a source said both sides want him to stay with the team beyond the final year of his contract next season and will have preliminary discussions about what he might look like when the training camp starts to fall.

why? Because if the price is right, Vucevic remains the kind of player that fits in with how the bulls are built on both ends of the floor.

Offensively, he spaces the ground and is a willing playmaker. Defensively, the bulls invested in playing defense from the outside in. Because of the individuals who have a contract over the next few seasons, it will be difficult to switch from that.

“I think we have the talent to keep up with all the teams in the East,” Vucevich said at the end of last season. “Nothing happens overnight. Nothing happens in one season. You take time. As a group, you have to go through the ups and downs of the year, the ups and downs, the failures, whatever. It really happens.

“We believe we have the pieces to build a successful group. All players are motivated, so, yes, I see no reason to panic and break up the group.”

Especially in a market where options will be limited.

Sure, the Bulls can look for a bargain, but their draft picks dry up after the acquisition of Vucevic two seasons ago and real trading assets are limited. And a look at the Free Dealer Center category next summer shows 37-year-old Al Horford, often injured Miles Turner and a little more.

A one-year extension of Vucevic’s contract with a player option for the 2024-25 season would make sense for both sides, given how long the Lonzo Ball and Alex Caruso contracts are.

But that would also depend on Vucevic returning to being a three-point shooter at 39%, as well as playing a bit more physically in defense.

If not, expect fans’ business sentiment to continue to build