Not every piece of preseason business for the Chicago Bulls went unaddressed by chance. The Bulls have caught heat for failing to address shooting and frontcourt depth this past offseason but they targeted Danilo Gallinari who signed with the Boston Celtics before getting hurt.
They were also linked to big men Mo Bamba and Isaiah Hartenstein both of whom signed lucrative deals elsewhere.
Yet the Bulls did not follow through on reports of mutual interest with starting center Nikola Vucevic, who is in the final year of his contract, in discussing an extension. The veteran big man revealed that talks never even got going saying that, if they had approached him, it was something that his side would have been happy to discuss.
Perhaps they were leaving themselves with a much-needed trade chip.
Vooch to L.A.?
ESPN’s Zach Lowe reported on “The Lowe Post” podcast that the Los Angeles Lakers “100%” had discussed the possibility of trading for Vucevic as well as teammate DeMar DeRozan adding that it was more due diligence than anything of substance.
And Fox Sports’ NBA insider Ric Bucher reported that DeRozan was considered off-limits along with Zach LaVine by Bulls brass.
With no such restrictions on Vucevic, Blog-A-Bull’s Alex Kirschenbaum proposed this deal.
- Nikola Vucevic
“If the Clippers want more floor-spacing and passing from the center position,” offers Kirschenbaum, “the Bulls could certainly use the defense of Zubac and Batum, plus Batum’s three-point shooting…Zubac gives the Clippers shot-blocking and defense, while Vucevic would give the team spacing without ceding rebounds.”
Vucevic is averaging 16.2 points and 11 rebounds per game this season. It is the second year in a row that he has seen his scoring drop, though his 58% true shooting is a career-high.
Zubac is averaging 10.8 points and 11.4 boards but is also blocking 1.7 shots per game. Batum is hitting over 39% of his triples this season and has averaged 11.7 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 2.7 assists in three starts.
The selling point for the Clippers is Vucevic’s shooting and passing (2.8 assists to 1.2 for Zubac) opening up things for Paul George and Kawhi Leonard.
Zubac is in the first year of a three-year, $32.8 million contract while Batum is in Year 1 of a two-year, $22.5 million deal. The latter has a trade restriction that doesn’t expire until January 15 giving both sides more time to potentially evaluate the benefits of this hypothetical trade scenario.
Bulls Nor Rebooting
Many on the outside such as Hall of Famer Charles Barkley have suggested the Bulls blow it up and start over. But the construction of their roster makes that difficult and they are said to be averse to taking that path anyway.
A deal to retool the current group makes more sense and, as the Big Three member with the least security, Vucevic is a logical choice to be moved to make that happen.
Of course, he is still held in high regard for his versatility and durability.
The Bulls would have to be certain they could not make it work with Vucevic even once they (eventually) get Lonzo Ball back in the mix. Until then, speculation will continue and Vucevic will be a subject of trade speculation especially if the Bulls start losing games in bunches as they did in November.