Bulls Floated as Potential Landing Spot for Mavs’ Free Agent

Chicago Bulls

Getty Luka Doncic #77 and Kyrie Irving #2 of the Dallas Mavericks.

If the Chicago Bulls and big man Nikola Vucevic can’t come to terms on a new contract this offseason when he will be an unrestricted free agent, Dallas Mavericks unrestricted free agent Christian Wood could be an option to replace the two-time All-Star.

“He could have suitors from the many teams with cap room, including two of his former teams—the Pistons (who need shooting) and the Rockets, ”wrote Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report on May 5. “If he can’t find a team with space, Wood will seek a team’s NTMLE in the $12.2 million range, such as that of the Portland Trail Blazers, Charlotte Hornets or Bulls.”

Wood, 27, averaged 16.6 points, 7.3 rebounds, 1.8 assists, and 1.1 blocks while shooting 51.5% from the floor and 37.6% from beyond the arc.

As Pincus notes, he is a shooter averaging 4.7 attempts per game from deep.

That would seem to fit well into Bulls executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas’ goal of emphasizing three-point shooting. While Vucevic is a capable shooter and even averaged an identical 4.2 looks from three as Wood this past season. But the latter is far more efficient knocking down the three-ball at a 38.2% clip over the last four seasons compared to 35.5% for Vucevic, albeit on 0.9 fewer attempts.

“I’m going to keep saying this: The Bulls need to add shooting,” wrote K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago on May 3. “That’s where I think the midlevel exception is going to be utilized.”

That would seem to align with Pincus’ line of thinking of what Wood could get on the open market. But Wood hits the market after finishing a three-year, $41 million deal while Vucevic completed his four-year, $100 million pact.

Teams don’t typically like to lose players in whom they have invested so heavily – particularly in the case of Vucevic – for nothing.

Even though the Mavericks were never as high on Wood as he or his camp were in him.

“Wood’s agent, Adam Pensack, launched an aggressive behind-the-scenes campaign to media members for his client to be considered an All-Star,” wrote Tim Cato of The Athletic on May 1. “Team sources said Dallas’ coaching staff never shared that same belief, which led to his inconsistent role.”

The door could still be open for a trade between the two teams, however.

Trade Proposal Swaps Nikola Vucevic for Christian Wood

The simplest way to get this deal done would be to work out a sign and trade for both players assuming there would be an issue the Bulls have in giving Vucevic a deal that would not exist with Wood.

Wood is five years younger and, while not a major upgrade over the Bulls veteran defensively, he is more athletic which could pair well alongside Zach LaVine.

Bulls Get:

– Christian Wood

Mavericks Get:
– Nikola Vucevic

This could even be the bones of a deal with some additional compensation exchanged, though both teams are rather limited in what they can do this summer thanks to previous and future obligations.

Still, it could be something worth exploring with Vucevic already having a close relationship with Mavs’ star Luka Doncic.

“Dallas is a candidate there,” a rival general manager told Heavy Sports NBA insider Sean Deveney. “He has a good relationship with Luka. Miami, he would like to play in Miami—every NBA player wants to play in Miami. But both of those teams are probably going to be taxpayers so there would have to be something that happens first to clear room. But there would be interest.”

Another Potential Suitor for Nikola Vucevic

Chicago is expected to retain Vucevic as the potential destination that can offer the best combination of money and a chance to compete.

But Pincus notes that there remains an outside possibility another team swoops in.

“At 32, he might not make sense for most teams with cap space—perhaps the Rockets would go after him if they decide to go in a very different direction (including a run at James Harden). Otherwise, he’s probably looking at the non-taxpayer mid-level exception (NTMLE), which projects to be $12.2 million.”

“Assuming the Dallas Mavericks bring back Kyrie Irving, they need to surround him and Luka Dončić with athletes, defenders and shooters,” writes Pincus.

If the Bulls can convince the Mavericks to forgo a potential defensive option for a more refined offensive threat, it could be a win-win for both sides. If not, the Bulls could very well run it back with essentially the same roster for the third year in a row.

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