Chicago Bulls center Nikola Vucevic had one of his better games of the 2022-23 season on Wednesday night, scoring 21 points, hitting eight of his 12 shot attempts and adding 13 boards, three assists and two blocked shots for good measure.
Without his efforts, the Bulls may not have been able to get back on the winning track against a Brooklyn Nets team that got a 44-point gem out of Kevin Durant and had entered the game as winners of 12 straight.
Nevertheless, one can’t shake the feeling that the two-time NBA All-Star isn’t the right player to man the pivot for the Bulls. And even if he was, the team is facing the prospect of losing him with no return in the summer when he becomes an unrestricted free agent; for his part, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski believes Vucevic will be a hot commodity.
With that in mind, NBC Sports Chicago’s Rob Schaefer just examined a hypothetical trade that would see the Bulls move Vooch and the elder half of the team’s star duo for one of the best young big men in the game.
Proposed Blockbuster Bring Deandre Ayton to the Bulls
Schaefer sourced a number of trade proposals on social media for a recent feature analyzing the 11 best that he could find. One of them represented a seismic change in direction for the Bulls who, despite showing flashes of potential in games like Wednesday’s, have underperformed amid Lonzo Ball’s injury and an awkwardly-constructed roster.
Here’s the pitch:
- Chicago Bulls receive C Deandre Ayton, F Jae Crowder and F Cam Johnson
- Phoenix Suns receive F DeMar DeRozan and C Nikola Vucevic
Schaefer gave the deal a B+ grade and said that “with Johnson removed, it’s my favorite trade of the bunch.” And it’s definitely not hard to see the potential of a Zach LaVine-Ayton-Patrick Williams core if you’re looking into the future.
Wrote the Bulls insider:
That construction could be intriguing for both sides. There is mounting evidence of a rift between Ayton and the Suns, and I believe he is exactly the type of big man (long, athletic, versatile on the defensive end but with a burgeoning offensive game as well at age 24) the Bulls should be targeting to take the long-term mantle from Vucevic. He would be a potential foundational piece moving forward — and for the long term.
Despite the animus that seems to exist between Ayton and his club, the former No. 1 overall pick is averaging 17.4 points and 9.7 rebounds per contest while shooting 60.4% from the floor and 35.0% from deep in ’22-23.
Is Trading DeMar DeRozan Really the Thing to Do?
DeRozan’s status as the Bulls’ leading scorer and stone-cold first option when the game is on the line in the clutch is undeniable. LaVine may have been pegged as the franchise’s cornerstone with that five-year, $215 million deal, but the five-time All-Star has consistently been Chicago’s best player over the last year and a half.
Alas, he’s no spring chicken at 33 years old, and his current contract will expire after next season. Moreover, building an attack around a baller who’s so focused on the mid-range is problematic in the modern NBA, efficient though he may be with his throwback style.
So, putting eggs in his basket may not be the move to make if bringing titles to the Windy City is the ultimate goal.