Bulls Nikola Vucevic Sounds Off on Potential Position Change

Nikola Vucevic, Chicago Bulls

Getty Nikola Vucevic #9 of the Chicago Bulls drives to the basket.

If the Chicago Bulls are going to achieve their goals of pushing further into the playoffs this coming season, they need a bounce-back campaign from big man Nikola Vucevic. Not only because they gave up a lot to get him. But also because he is essential to what they want to do offensively.

Vucevic’s teammate, Zach LaVine, was effusive in his praise for his fellow two-time All-Star on Media Day.

“Nikola Vucevic is so instrumental to what we do cause he can space the floor and is one of the best shooting big guys,” LaVine said on ‘Unfiltered’. “He’s so offensively skilled. He had a great offseason. He’s looking poised for this year.”

Just what that will look like for Vuevic and the Bulls remains to be determined.

Vucevic Open to Position Change

“This year I have a different approach,” Vucevic said during his Media Day availability. And I know what it’s going to take and how I have to do it. And so…Last year is last year. This is a new year. So I don’t think about last year. Just, you know, try to move on. I had a good summer. Put a lot of work in and I feel really confident going into this year.”

Vucevic added that he is not more motivated being in the final year of his contract. There have been reports he and the Bulls are interested in an extension.

He added that he was too passive at first last season and then forced it when things didn’t work.

Sam Smith of NBA.com asked Vucevic about shifting to more of a stretch four role this season as looks to find better footing with this group. The big man responded positively to the idea of playing alongside Andre Drummond.

“I’m open to trying anything to see how it works. And then, you know obviously, if it works well it’s something we can continue to do. If not, then we’ll revisit it. But I think it could work. I think with my skill set and my ability to play inside and outside and being able to shoot the ball and make plays for others and different things – my versatility on the court – helps us try that.”

Vuevic pointed to the time he spent with Tristan Thompson last season that he says had some success and said it would be matchup-dependent.

Bulls head coach Billy Donovan also sounded open to the idea while citing Thompson. But he noted that it’s not something that he would say they are looking to do any more than experiment with it during the preseason.

Donovan cited defensive and spacing concerns but Smith had an idea for a possible solution.

Bulls Urged to Bench Vucevic

Smith implored the Bulls to consider sending Vucevic to the bench to be the offensive focal point of those units in his article on questions ahead of training camp. He argued that, with LaVine and DeMar DeRozan commanding the ball as much as they do, it would benefit everyone for Drummond to assume the starter’s role.

“There’s been some talk that perhaps Vucevic should start at power forward with Drummond at center to counter the size deficit,” Smith notes. “Though with neither being particularly light-footed, that likely would impact too much defensively…But what I’d do is form two groups, the first a veteran offensive team that would execute. And then be replaced by a high speed, high energy, pressure defensive team that could create turnovers and which would be supported by Vucevic’s scoring, in effect putting Vucevic back in a role he had with Orlando.”

That measure is likely far too drastic for the Bulls and Vucevic at this point.

But it is not as far-fetched to consider it in terms of simply staggering the big man’s minutes to try and take advantage of the mismatches Smith laid out.

Vucevic is set to earn $22 million this season. His next contract could go a long way toward determining if his Bulls tenure was a success and this could be one way to make sure he leaves a good impression.

Vucevic Laughed Off the Noise

The summer was filled with stories of Vucevic being on the verge of being shipped out. He even went so far as to engage with fans on the matter on social media. Vucevic was asked about his feelings on the trade chatter and if it affected him.

He said that it did not because he cannot control such things and that he instead focuses on the things that he can.

Vucevic also said that he never really felt as though a trade was coming because he didn’t speak to Bulls vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas about it. He proved his confidence with his recent purchase of a new home in Chicago. He was also confident in his ability to mesh better with DeRozan and LaVine this season.

The Bulls certainly need him to be.

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