Extending Nikola Vucevic on the table, and maybe necessary for Bulls

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

At 6-10 and possibly a few summers away from entering dad-bod territory, the ire from the fan base was understandable. Misguided in many ways, but understandable.

After all, Vucevic was considered a key leg of the tripod on which the Bulls’ core was built. And with DeMar DeRozan having an MVP-type season and Zach LaVine still good for 24 points a game, it was Vucevic’s numbers that opened eyes — and not in a good way.

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

Forget the fact that Vucevic’s touches were down from his first 28 games with the Bulls the season before and way down from his days with the Magic — almost five fewer shots per game from the 2020-21 season. Fans want production, not excuses.

Then there was his defense. Vucevic never was considered a rim protector, but when the Bulls’ defensive-focused backcourt started turning up in the training room daily, his defensive shortcomings were on full display, especially in pick-and-roll.

Vucevic admitted he was bringing his offensive miscues to the defensive side of the ball during the first half of last season, and that is never a good look.

That’s why trading Vucevic became a common hot…

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