Analyst Floats Trade Bringing Former No. 1 Pick, Double-Double Machine to Bulls

Deandre Ayton Nikola Vucevic

Getty Deandre Ayton defends Nikola Vucevic during a game between the Phoenix Suns and the Chicago Bulls.

By the end of their 2022-23 campaign, the Chicago Bulls found themselves in exactly the place that no NBA team wants to be — the purgatory that is the league’s middle tier. And while many are advocating for a full-on rebuild in the Windy City, the club seems intent on trying to win now.

If the Bulls truly have designs on being competitive — as they were in 2021-22 before Lonzo Ball’s knee injury — however, the Arturas Karnisovas and Marc Eversley-led front office needs to improve the roster around Zach LaVine and DeMar DeRozan.

To that end, Bleacher Report’s Zach Buckley believes that Chicago should go big.

“If the Bulls want to maximize their competitiveness next season, upgrading at center might be a top priority,” wrote Buckley. “[Nikola] Vucevic is a good player, but he isn’t a good fit with LaVine and DeRozan since all three are score-first players with defensive deficiencies.”

With that in mind, Buckley floated a trade bringing Phoenix Suns pivot and former No. 1 overall pick Deandre Ayton to the Bulls.

B/R Pitches Deal Swapping Nikola Vucevic & a Former Lottery Pick for Deandre Ayton

VideoVideo related to analyst floats trade bringing former no. 1 pick, double-double machine to bulls2023-05-19T15:52:35-04:00

In his feature identifying potential Bulls deals to “shake up the NBA offseason,” Buckley put forth the following swap:

  • Phoenix Suns receive C Nikola Vucevic (sign-and-trade) and F Patrick Williams
  • Chicago Bulls receive C Deandre Ayton

Wrote Buckley of Ayton’s fit with Chicago:

The top pick in 2018 is a two-way contributor. He can operate as both a pick-and-roll screener and a post-up scorer. He offers more defensive resistance at the rim than Vucevic and is just as active on the glass. Ayton could step into a prominent role right now, and since he’ll only turn 25 this summer, he might grow into something even greater down the line.

Despite the fact that Ayton averaged 18.0 points and 10.0 rebounds while shooting 58.9% from the floor for the Suns in 2022-23, the team could look to swap him for quality depth pieces.

Ayton already tried to leave the Suns once, signing a four-year, $133 million offer sheet with the Indiana Pacers last summer (which Phoenix matched). Meanwhile, ESPN’s Zach Lowe just reported that there are “a lot of people in that organization that are tired of DeAndre” on his podcast. As seen in the clip embedded above, his effort level has been questioned by some as well.

A fresh start with the Bulls may be just what the doctor ordered for everyone involved.

Would the Bulls Give Up on Patrick Williams?

Vucevic has been a huge part of what the Bulls have been doing ever since his 2021 arrival. Given his defensive issues, potentially bloated salary and occasionally awkward fit with LaVine and DeRozan, however, it’s not difficult to rationalize sending him out in a sign-and-trade scenario. Parting with Williams may be another matter.

The former No. 4 overall pick has the size, strength, athleticism and raw skills to be a 3-and-D star. And even as he’s entering year four in a Bulls uniform, he’s still just a 21-year-old who could take multiple forward steps in the seasons ahead.

Moreover, his still-developing shot is already showing signs of progression. In ’22-23, he took a career-high 3.4 triples per contest and sunk them at a 41.5% clip.

At the same time, Williams’ aggressiveness (or lack thereof) on both sides of the ball has been an issue. And his failure to elevate his game to the point that he can take ownership of a featured, starting role with the club has been a point of contention for fans.

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