Proposed Bulls Trade Swaps Nikola Vucevic for Defensive Stalwart

Nikola Vucevic Bulls

Getty Nikola Vucevic looks on during a game between the Chicago Bulls and the Indiana Pacers.

When the Chicago Bulls made the deadline-day trade to bring All-Star big man Nikola Vucevic into the fold back in 2021, it was thought to be a trajectory-altering move by the club. At least, that’s what VP Arturas Karnisovas and his brain trust were hoping.

Eighteen months in, though, Vuvevic has been the Bulls’ ultimate mixed bag. Chicago failed to make a playoff run immediately after acquiring the big man. And while they did finally break the drought in 2021-22, Vooch hardly resembled the guy who logged a 25-12-4 line and shot 40% from deep during his last go-round in Orlando.

If one considers that Chicago coughed up Wendell Carter Jr and a first-round pick — which was later used to select Franz Wagner — to bring him to the Windy City, it’s nigh impossible to say the team won the deal.

Alas, simply letting him walk when his deal expires at the end of the coming campaign won’t fix anything. When he leaves, so too does his salary slot. As such, we’re proposing that the Bulls put it to better use by swinging a big trade instead.

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In an effort to fill Vucevic’s slot, improve the team’s defensive presence and save $4-ish million in salary in 2022-23, we’re proposing the following deal between the Bulls and their Central Division rivals, the Indiana Pacers:

  • Chicago Bulls receive C Myles Turner
  • Indiana Pacers receive C Nikola Vucevic and a 2023 first-round pick (via Portland)

Although Turner isn’t quite the offensive player that Vucevic has been, his abilities as a rim-runner and finisher would give Billy Donovan’s offense an added dimension. Moreover, Turner’s three-point prowess is, at the least, on par with what Vooch brought to the table last season.

Turner’s career three-point percentage of 34.9 is nearly identical to that of Vucevic (34.8). And last season, the 26-year-old actually outshot the Bulls center from deep, 33.3% to 31.4%.

Of course, Turner’s value would really show on the defensive end, where he’s a two-time NBA shot-blocking champion. Last season, opponents’ field goal percentages dropped by 8.7% on average on shots attempted within six feet of the hoop when Turner was the closest defender.

Finally, Turner’s age and ability make him a player the Bulls could actually extend this year and keep long-term, while Vooch’s days feel numbered.

Why the Pacers Would Deal With the Bulls

As evidenced by their dealing of Domantas Sabonis, Caris LeVert and Malcolm Brogdon, the Pacers have finally embraced the reboot/retool/rebuild (whatever term you’re comfortable with). Considering owner Herb Simon’s previous commentary on the matter, that’s no small thing.

The tinkering shouldn’t end there, though, and this trade nets Indy another valuable first-rounder to help with the effort.

As it stands, the club could have three first-rounders in 2023. Adding another to the mix not only gives the Pacers multiple bites at the draft apple but a cadre of assets with which they can either move up to a high selection or deal for an established difference-maker, if they so choose.

Meanwhile, Vucevic could recover some of his value as the big fish in a small pond once again.

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Michael Cunnningham
Michael Cunnningham
9 days ago

This is a good deal for both teams. The Bulls adding a rim protector is needed for team defense, plus with Vucevic gone will force Patrick Williams to become more of an offensive threat.

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