Bulls Veteran’s Struggles Against NBA Elite ‘Would Worry Me’: Insider

Nikola Vucevic (middle, No. 9) of the Bulls

Getty Nikola Vucevic (middle, No. 9) of the Bulls

The Chicago Bulls are having a good season, the team is off to a 39-23 start so far this season and is currently one and a half games behind the Miami Heat for first place in the Eastern Conference. The addition of DeMar DeRozan in the off-season has paid huge dividends as he’s had an MVP caliber season so far.

The additions of Lonzo Ball and Alex Caruso have also been big for the team in free agency, despite missing time with injuries. The Bulls also hit it big when they drafted Ayo Dosunmu with the eighth pick in the second round.

With the Bulls playing really well so far this season, there’s plenty to be excited about for their fans. Despite all the good, there are still some concerns for this team.

Struggles With Good Teams

While the Bulls are currently second in the conference, they’ve had their struggles with the top teams in the league. So far this season the team is just 3-14 against the top five teams in each conference.

During a Heavy.com session on Thursday, Heavy.com NBA insider Steve Bulpett and editor Sean Deveney discussed the team’s issues:

Bulpett: I want to see them whole because their big issue is defensively, and there they miss Alex Caruso hugely. I wouldn’t pass judgment on them until I see them play those teams whole. It takes some time to get all your pieces in alignment. The question is going to be, when and if they get healthy and on the floor together, do they have enough time to get it together for a playoff run.

Deveney: One guy who would concern me if I was a Bulls fan is Vucevic. He has not played well in these games against the best teams in the league. When you look at a Miami or a Philadelphia, they’ve got a big guy there who can push him around a little bit and he gets pushed around. That’s the thing that would worry me. Three games against Miami, 10 points, 34% shooting. Three games against Philadelphia, 12 points, 36% shooting. He did have 19 points in one game against Milwaukee but he was 7-for-17 shooting.  He would worry me in terms of what might happen in the playoffs. Really, that would be the key for me.

Bulpett’s point about the injuries is the same thing the Bulls have been saying about their struggles. The team has also cited their lack of big-game experience, both of which are valid points.

Vucevic’s Struggles

Deveney’s point about Vucevic’s struggles is also real. In the 17 games that he has played against the best teams in the league, Vucevic is averaging just 13.9 points per game. While he has been good in wins (19.3 point, 50.1% shooting, 34.8% 3-point shooting), he has been especially bad in losses (15.4 points, 41.0% shooting, 23.8% 3-point shooting).

The Bulls will need strong play out of Vucevic at both ends of the floor if they are going to be a threat in the postseason. The addition of Tristan Thompson will help him some, especially on the defensive end. If the Bulls can get Patrick Williams back from injury then that could also take some pressure off of Vucevic.

The Bulls and Vucevic still have plenty of opportunities down the stretch to improve their play against top teams. With 20 games left in the regular season, nine of them are against top-five teams from each conference.

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