Bulls Considered Landing Spot for Former $48 Million ‘Beast’ Big Man

Chicago Bulls

Getty Head coach Billy Donovan of the Chicago Bulls shouts instructions to his team

As the Chicago Bulls ended their season with exit interviews, speculation over their offseason plans had already begun. Some had them dealing center Nikola Vucevic as well as former seventh-overall pick, Coby White.

However, messages of continuity were supported by advice for ways to improve over the offseason.

The focus within the organization appears to be focused more on improving on the margins.

That means finding players that complement the core group and one player that could do just that is Portland Trail Blazers unrestricted free agent big man Jusuf Nurkic, writes Bleacher Report’s Scott Polacek.

The Bosnian Beast

Nurkic averaged 15.0 points and a career-high 11.1 rebounds in 56 games for the 27-55 Blazers this season. While mostly a paint player, Nurkic has expanded his range to the perimeter and averaged 1.0 threes per game this past season.

He averaged a career-high 1.3 in 2020 but only played in eight games due to injury. A plantar fascia injury ended this season for the eight-year veteran.

When healthy, though, he offers size and power with skill – Nurkic has averaged 3.2 assists, 1.1 blocks, and 1.1 steals per game over the last four seasons.

That includes his 2019 season where he started 72 contests.

Nurkic’s 109.9 offensive rating trails Nikola Vucevic’s 111.3 offensive rating, per NBA.com. But his 110.1 defensive rating is better than the Bulls’ center’s 112.8 rating.

The question is whether or not Nurkic would be open to coming off of the bench if Vucevic does stay. Nurkic has started every game he has appeared in since 2017. Neither big man is particularly well-suited to play out in space at power forward.

Vucevic has been mentioned as someone who could be part of a bigger package to land someone such as Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert.

Nurkic could be a replacement if the return is not another big man.

Bringing the Big Man Back

The Bulls selected Nurkic with the 16th-overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft. They sent him along with 3-and-D wing, Gary Harris, to the Denver Nuggets on draft night for the rights to current San Antonio Spurs sharpshooter Doug McDermott.

Denver flipped him to Portland three seasons later for center Mason Plumlee and a pick that would become Shake Milton.

Now, his and the Bulls’ respective journeys could bring them back to one another with his four-year, $48 million contract expired, per Sportrac.

There is the matter of a lawsuit filed by a Pacers fan against Nurkic for this incident during a March 20 Blazers loss. Nurkic was inactive for the contest. As for Nurkic’s future in Portland, Blazers Edge writer Dia Miller said that she could see an exit in free agency.

Nurkic appears to be where he wants to be…I think he can be a long-term answer but I think It depends largely on what direction they go with bringing in players.

Miller’s colleague Dave Deckard thinks the time for a change has come.

I’m just not sold on the experiment. After six years, there’s still too much murky middle ground with Nurk.

Deckard did join Miller in saying Nurkic should be back for a variety of reasons including Portland’s salary cap situation. Perhaps Nurkic would view Chicago as a better chance to compete than Portland even with a healthy Damian Lillard.

There would still be the matter of what role Nurkic would have with Vucevic in town. This is just another layer to a critical offseason for the Bulls.

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