The Chicago Bulls pull off a blockbuster trade for Orlando’s Superstar: Nikola Vucevic. The trade happened last week before the NBA trade deadline, sending Wendell Carter and Al-Farouq Aminu down to the Sunshine State. The Magic also acquired two first-round picks (2021 and 2023.) The trade was emotional for Vucevic. He teared up, and had great things to say about his time with the Orlando Magic:
“To me, the hardest part was just the people. For nine years you’re gonna meet great people. That was just the hardest for me. Obviously, it meant a lot to me, and like I said, I came there as a kid and left as a man.” He recognizes how much he has grown, as a player and as an individual, since starting his career with the Magic.
I came there [to the Orlando Magic] as a kid and left as a man.-Nikola Vucevic
Vucevic (“Vooch”) brings talent and intensity on both ends of the court; not your traditional “big man”, Nikola Vucevic can shoot from long/mid-range. He’s also light on his feet, giving him the ability to capitalize on fastbreak turnovers, and possesses great ball-handling skills. Nikola Vucevic averages 24 points, four assists, 11 rebounds, and one block per game.
He has won two playoff games, in two playoff appearances. He averages a double-double for his career stats and has a career average FG% of 49%. Oh, and he’s also a 2x All-Star. The one phrase that comes to mind when I see Vucevic is Consistently great.
Will he be enough to take the struggling Chicago Bulls to the playoffs?
Nikola Vucevic was drafted by the Philadelphia 76ers in the first round of the 2011 NBA draft. After spending his rookie season with the Sixers, Vucevic was traded to the Orlando Magic, where he has played the last nine years. During his time with the Magic, he steadily increased his production over the years. In year one, he averaged 13 points per game, and by year nine, he was averaging 24 points per game. The Bulls are getting Vooch right in his prime.
Will Chicago Make a Run This Year?
No. Based on their upcoming schedule alone, it’s really unlikely.
The Bulls currently sit 10th place in the east (19-27 on the year) with 26 games left to play in the regular season. Of their next 26 games, they have three games against Brooklyn, two games against Milwaukee, two games against Boston, and 1 game against Utah. Even if the Bulls managed to win 13 out of their 26 remaining games, they would still be 1 game under .500 on the year.
Coby White and Zach Lavine, two members of the Bulls starting five, are both currently injured. Since Chicago is playing with a skeleton crew, Orlando’s Superstar will be expected to carry a heavy load as he settles into his new role, playbook, and coach. He will also be building chemistry with new teammates, both healthy and injured, which takes time.
The Windy City will not make the playoffs this year, but this is by no means a bad trade for them. The timing wasn’t right to compete in 2021, and I do not think the goal was to compete this year. They will be back next season to take the East by storm.
Future of the Franchise
It is not impossible, but very unlikely for Chi-Town to make a run this year. Next year, however, is a completely different story.
The veteran center will return in late October to a healthy team. He will have Coby White and Zach Lavine, each with another year of experience under their belt. He will have mentored the promising PF product out of Florida State University, Patrick Williams, as well as other new draftees. Vucevic will be the experienced spur in the side of this young team, encouraging them to learn and up their game. Sophomore Patrick Williams is going to be scary at the four-spot.
Another quick note: everyone on the Bulls should not only be back and healthy, but they will also be vaccinated for COVID-19. This means no restrictions on training camp, social distancing, masks. One summer together, and this team will be HUMMING under Billy Donovan’s leadership.
All else constant, I expect the Chicago Bulls to be a top-five seed in the East next year because of this trade.