After making multiple splashes in free agency last summer, it seems a return to the playoffs is inevitable for the Chicago Bulls.
But the Windy City roster isn’t yet within the contending tier of the NBA.
To their credit, the Bulls have been without Alex Caruso and Lonzo Ball for an extended period, so the full capability of the roster as constructed is still unclear.
Chicago’s got clear-cut weaknesses outside of the backcourt, however, with some serious concerns among the fanbase centered on the viability of Nikola Vucevic at center.
But as you scan the field of upcoming free agents for potential upgrades, there don’t seem to be a vast number of options.
That’s on the surface though.
One (admittedly optimistic) Bulls fan has posed the possibility of an upgrade at the position that would immediately vault the team into the upper echelon of contending teams: reigning MVP and Nikola Jokic.
Averaging 25.4 points, 13.8 rebounds, 7.9 assists, and 1.4 steals per game, he’s up for an extension this summer.
Could he opt to bypass that, and thus become a target for the Chicago Bulls?
Smith: “It Sounded Like a Plan”
He shut down the idea and provided $70-million reasons as to why not:
MIKE SUTERA: Nikola Jokic’s agent said he will sign the max this summer with Denver. Darn. I thought that might have been AK’s plan.
SAM SMITH: It sounded like a plan, ease Vooch out after next season when his contract expires, Denver-AK connection, bring in The Big Man for the next level. But with Nikola Jokic’s MVP, he’s eligible for the super max, and only your team can pay a super max. And as appealing as Chicago hot dogs are, it’s tough to pass up maybe $70 million for the epicurean availabilities.
Given that Arturas Karnisovas was a part of the Denver Nuggets front office that drafted Jokic, there will always be speculation surrounding that connection.
But for now, barring any groundbreaking developments, trust that the reigning MVP is set on continuing his desire to deliver a championship to the Mile High City faithful.
That being said, however, what hope is there of an eventual Chicago Bulls upgrade over Nikola Vucevic?
Smith went on to argue that perhaps they don’t have to.
Smith: Vucevic is “Such a Good Teammate”
No one’s saying the Chicago Bulls are as good as they are without Nikola Vucevic.
After all, the same front office that landed Alex Caruso, DeMar DeRozan, and Lonzo Ball in one summer also gave up two first-round picks for the 11-year veteran.
As Smith goes on to argue in his mailbag column, the 31-year old big man is incredibly skilled for his position:
I know there’s this ambivalence about Vucevic. You know, why isn’t he Embiid? But try also to remember how long it took the Bulls to find a center with his skills, someone who is such a good teammate he’s willing and anxious to accept the criticism and do less so the team can be more.
On the season, Vucevic is averaging 17.9 points, 11.5 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 1.1 blocks, and 1.0 steals per game.
According to Stathead.com, only three players this season are averaging a minimum of those numbers.
Notice someone missing? Nikola Jokic doesn’t qualify by way of his 0.7 blocks per game average.
Perhaps sticking with Nikola Vucevic as a consolation prize isn’t so bad after all.
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