The Chicago Bulls want to trade starting center Nikola Vucevic, and the San Antonio Spurs, Portland Trail Blazers, Utah Jazz, and Charlotte Hornets have all been mentioned as possible landing spots.
Vucevic, 31, is in the final year of a four-year contract that paid him $100 million, which makes him an attractive trade candidate. He will earn $22 million this season.
The Bulls indicated their intentions to re-sign free agent Zach LaVine. There were no shortage of rumors the last couple of months that LaVine would bolt in free agency, or the Bulls would work out a sign-and-trade to somewhere like the Portland Trail Blazers or Los Angeles Lakers. The Minnesota Timberwolves traded LaVine to the Bulls in 2017. After the 2017-18 season ended, the Bulls signed LaVine to a four-year deal worth $78 million. He made $19.5 million the last four seasons and he’s seeking a well-deserved raise. With the Bulls focused on a new contract for LaVine, they’re also looking to clear some cap space with a Vucevic trade.
The Bulls were the #6 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs, but they were knocked out in the first round in just five games by the defending champion Milwaukee Bucks. According to DraftKings’ futures board, the Bulls are +5500 odds to win the 2023 NBA championship.
NikVic: Chicago’s Third Option
Vucevic averaged 17.6 points, 11 rebounds, and 3.2 assists per game with the Bulls this season. He was the third-best scorer for the Bulls behind DeMar DeRozan (27.9 ppg) and Zach LaVine (24.4 ppg).
Vucevic logged the second-most minutes on the team this season and was one of the few players who appeared in 85% of the Bulls games. The team was ravished with a COVID-19 outbreak around the holidays and other starters missed time with injuries, yet Vucevic missed just nine games.
When Vucevic played for the Orlando Magic, he made two All-Star appearances. In the 2020-21 season, Vucevic averaged a career-best 24.5 ppg and 11.8 rebounds per game while shooting 40.6% from 3-point range before the Magic gutted the team prior to the trade deadline and sent him to the Bulls.
Vucevic saw his numbers dip after the Bulls added DeRozan to the starting five. He didn’t shoot as many 3-pointers in Billy Donovan’s offensive scheme and he shot just 31.4% from downtown which was his worst stretch since earlier in his career before he developed a deadly 3-point jumper.
Trade Options: Hornets, Spurs, Trail Blazers, Jazz
The San Antonio Spurs are the most likely candidate to land Vucevic in a trade with the Bulls. The Spurs need a legit center because Jakob Poeltl just doesn’t cut the mustard. The big knock against Vucevic is that he’s a defensive liability, but the Spurs need someone who can score on a consistent basis.
The Charlotte Hornets also need a center, but Vucevic is not a feared rim protector, which the Hornets desperately need to plug a huge hole in their porous defense. The Hornets hired Kenny Atkinson as their new coach, and he’s helped turn the Brooklyn Nets into a top ten defense during his tenure. Perhaps Vucevic just needs the right coaching scheme to help him improve his defense?
The Portland Trail Blazers are looking to rebuild a team around Damian Lillard, but they’re not looking to surround him with a bunch of rookies and rubes. Instead, the Trail Blazers want to surround Lillard with veterans. Lillard indicated that he’d like to play with Deandre Ayton, OG Anunoby, and/or John Collins, but are the Trail Blazers seriously considering trading away the #7 pick to add a big man? Vucevic and backup point guard Coby White has also been mentioned in trade rumors with the Trail Blazers, but will the Bulls be able to work out a deal prior to the upcoming NBA Draft?
Quin Snyder recently stepped down as head coach of the Utah Jazz. The team is in flux, but the Jazz said they’d consider moving Rudy Gobert in a trade, so perhaps the Bulls would like to swap Vucevic? Gobert would provide the Bulls with a rim protector that could put them over the hump in the postseason.
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