A rapid slide into NBA purgatory – that hapless space between contender and tanker – has the Chicago Bulls (22-26) squarely in the crosshairs of media and front offices alike as reports continue to emerge adding or confirming potential trade partners for some of the few upper-tier assets they have.
One player the Bulls may be most willing to move on from is center Nikola Vucevic.
K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago considers the 12th-year veteran the “player to watch” among the Bulls’ big three as the most likely to be moved.
Vucevic is in the final year of his contract with plans for an extension not even being broached. Though adept offensively both in the paint and on the perimeter, Vucevic needs a certain kind of defensive structure around him and there is one team that could make a lot of sense.
Nikola Vucevic Could Be Trade Option for Clippers
“Myles Turner has been connected to the Clippers,” began Rob Mahoney on The Ringer’s ‘Group Chat’ podcast on January 26. “Let’s say a lot of those deals don’t work out and…maybe the answer to that is you get someone who’s like a bit of a middle ground and between [Ivica Zubac] and playing small.”
- Amir Coffey
- Marcus Morris
- Two 2nd Round Picks
- Nikola Vucevic
“Coffee is a fringe rotation player,” Mahoney conceded. “Marcus Morris is fine. Kind of plugging a gap but really it’s, ‘We’re getting a couple second-round picks for this thing. We’re dusting our hands off from the entire Vooch situation‘. And with the Clippers, maybe you do get that kind of mediating presence in your rotation.”
Coffey, 25, has seen his playing time dwindle after being a bright spot for the team last season averaging 9.0 points and shooting 37.8% from downtown. He’s averaged just 3.5 points in 13.5 minutes per game this season.
The 6-foot-7 swingman is in the first year of a three-year, $11 million contract.
Morris, 33, is having a nice season with 12.9 points, 4.4 boards, and 1.8 assists while shooting 37.9% from deep. But the toughness he adds might be offset by his overaggressiveness. He is also in the third year of a four-year, $64 million pact that would keep him on the books through the 2024 season.
It might seem easy to dismiss the second-round picks but they are often what can help facilitate the kind of “take a flier” deals the Bulls should look for if they begin parting out their roster. They just saw a second-round pick they traded used to bring Rui Hachimura to the Los Angeles Lakers.
The Bulls are also out their next available second-round pick thanks to tampering with Lonzo Ball so this deal would satisfy that while also helping to partially replenish their coffers.
Nikola Vucevic’s Resurgence Comes At Right Time For Bulls
Vucevic has enjoyed a strong campaign after his numbers dipped upon being traded to Chicago and then again after DeMar DeRozan arrived. The two-time All-Star pivot went from being the top option with the Orlando Magic to the third option behind DeRozan and Zach Lavine.
Still, he has gotten better as the season has worn averaging 19.2 points on 61.2% true shooting with 11.8 rebounds, 3.8 assists, and 1.0 blocks over his last 20 games.
He has also connected on over 37% of his threes over that span.
If the Bulls do decide their best course of action is to trade him, he has done himself and them a favor with any team that is doing so either seeing him as a final piece as Mahoney suggests the Clippers might. Or with the intent of signing him to another contract either via an extension upon being traded or in the offseason.