As was expected, the Chicago Bulls were incredibly busy during last Thursday’s trade deadline. They added five new faces, including two-time All-Star Nikola Vucevic.
But it’s possible that their most beneficial addition has yet to take the floor. At the final buzzer on deadline day, the Bulls took part in a three-team deal to bring in fourth-year center Daniel Theis.
He didn’t suit up in Saturday’s loss to the San Antonio Spurs, but is expected to take the floor on Monday night, when Chicago faces a potentially Steph Curry-less Golden State Warriors team.
Theis was previously averaging 9.5 points, 5.2 rebounds, 1.6 assists, and a block per game for the Boston Celtics this season.
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Theis Brings Defense, Physicality
Nothing about any of Daniel Theis’s stat lines across four years in the NBA are eye popping. Yet he’s played a significant role year after year for an Eastern Conference contender come playoff time.
The reason why also happens to be one of the biggest needs within this Chicago Bulls roster.
Theis is tough, he plays hard, and he brings a physicality to the frontcourt. None of those qualities have ever been the calling card of Vucevic, who brings his own specialities to the center position.
But the Bulls were reminded on Saturday night that rim protection remains their largest weakness. They allowed the Spurs to shoot 17-for-22 at the rim, equaling out to 54.1 percent shooting.
As of Monday morning, the Chicago Bulls are allowing 50.5 points in the paint nightly, per NBA.com. That ranks 27th out of all 30 teams in the NBA.
Theis vowed to bring his trademark toughness to Chicago when speaking with reporters (via NBC Sports) on Sunday:
I’m physical. Try to help the team win games, especially at the defensive end. That was my role with the Celtics too. Be vocal. Be loud. That’s the way I play. Put my body in there. Protect the rim. Protect the pain.
It’s unclear what his role will be just yet, with all of Patrick Williams, Lauri Markkanen, and Vucevic currently members of head coach Billy Donovan’s starting five. Regardless, Theis is ready for the challenge:
I had games in Boston where I played more or I played less. But I always give 100 percent. It doesn’t matter to me how long I’m out there. Just help the team to get better and win games from the defensive end and offensively, just run and use my speed.
As it stands, the Bulls’ newest big is slated to play next to Thaddeus Young in the frontcourt, coming off the bench. The two veterans should provide versatile defense and ball movement for Chicago’s non-starter minutes.
He’s An Offensive Upgrade, Too
As much as the emphasis behind Theis’s arrival will be centered around his defense, the 28-year old will be able to help on the offensive end of the ball as well.
The big men Chicago shipped out at the deadline—Wendell Carter Jr. and Daniel Gafford—had combined to shoot eight-of-22 from behind the three-point line. Theis alone has made 33 of his 95 shots from deep this season.
That equals out to a .347 shooting clip, which is a welcome number in Chicago, who’re attempting just over 34 shots from three-point territory—good for 20th in the NBA.
Between him and Vucevic, the floor should grow even more open for Bulls’ cutters like LaVine, Williams, and Tomas Satoransky.
In today’s NBA, you live and die by way of defense and three-point shooting. To add a guy who’s skilled in both areas at the halfway point of the season, well that’s a strong addition by all accounts.
No pressure, Daniel Theis.
But all eyes are on you.