NBA Exec Projects Trade of Young Knicks Big Man for Much-Maligned Bull

Nikola Vucevic

Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images Nikola Vucevic

The Chicago Bulls have been struggling over the last couple of months. The team has gone just 5-10 since the All-Star break and has fallen to fifth place in the Eastern Conference standings.

At one time the Bulls looked prime to host a playoff series, now they are fighting to stay out of the play-in games. Chicago is just one game in front of the Raptors and two games in front of the Cavaliers.

Plenty of things has contributed to the Bulls’ struggles over the last couple of months. Injuries to Patrick Williams, Lonzo Ball, and Alex Caruso have certainly played a role in the team’s issues.

Vucevic’s Struggles

Some of the blame for the Bulls’ struggles on the defensive end of the floor has fallen on veteran big man Nikola Vucevic. An Eastern Conference executive recently told Heavy’s Sean Deveney that the criticism isn’t necessarily fair, but it’s something the team will have to address this summer.

“He probably takes too much blame for some of what has gone wrong with that team, and when you get a guy like Vuc, you know what you’re getting,” the exec said. “He’s never been Bill Russell in the paint, that’s just not who he is. I do think he has gotten a step slower, a half-step slower and that is costing them. He can’t provide a lot of help and that puts the perimeter defense under a lot of pressure. They can handle that when Lonzo (Ball) and (Alex) Caruso are out there. That hasn’t been the case and teams have exposed that.”
But, the executive said, perhaps a trade could solve the problem, at least if the Bulls were willing to help a potential partner, the Knicks, solve a stubborn problem of their own.
“It’s still something they will want to address in the offseason,” he said. “There is not going to be a big market for Vucevic but he only has one year left on the deal so you could use him in a sign-and-trade. They talked with the Knicks about Mitchell Robinson in February. They could circle back to that and send out Vucevic and a pick, but they would have to take back a contract, like Kemba Walker. But Vuc and a first-round pick for Robinson and Kemba, I would think that would get it done for both sides.”
Robinson would be a really good fit on this Bulls roster. The 23-year-old big man is averaging 8.4 points, 8.6 rebounds, and 1.8 blocks per game in 25.3 minutes per game.
Robinson’s presence inside and physicality would give the Bulls something they don’t currently have. The question here might be if the Bulls would want Walker.
Kemba has been out since February 23 since he and the Knicks agreed he would be sidelined for the rest of the season. The five-time All-Star has dealt with injuries this season and at one point was even removed from the rotation.
This season Walker averaged just 11.6 points per game while shooting 40.3% from the field and 36% from three. Walker is signed for next season, but the Bulls would likely cut him since the Bulls have a deep backcourt.

Rest of the Season

In the meantime, the Bulls have eight games left in the regular season with six of those against playoff teams. Chicago is currently three games back of fourth place and it’s unlikely at this point that they’ll get to host a playoff series.
The Bulls will face three of the teams ahead of them in the standings down the stretch as they’ll play the Heat, Bucks, and Celtics to start April. The team is just 1-7 against those three teams this season. While those games are important for the standings, they might just be more important for the Bulls’ confidence ahead of the postseason.



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