Bulls Linked to $60M Rim Protector, Nikola Vucevic Replacement

Nikola Vucevic, Chicago Bulls

Getty Nikola Vucevic #9 of the Chicago Bulls.

It will be interesting to see which of the Chicago Bulls’ previous trade talks they pick back up this offseason, if any at all.

One such set of talks could lead them to target a big man they previously had their sights on.

“If Chicago lets [Nikola Vucevic] walk, it could target Mitchell Robinson as his replacement,” argues Zach Buckley of Bleacher Report. “The 7-footer is longer, bouncier and much more active on defense. He also doesn’t need a ton of touches—though he wouldn’t mind more than he gets in New York—which should make it easier for him to play off of DeMar DeRozan and Zach LaVine.

“The Knicks, meanwhile, might feel good enough about their center rotation to sacrifice Robinson for a few long-term assets.”

Bulls Get:

Mitchell Robinson

Knicks Get:

Ayo Dosunmu (sign and trade)
Andre Drumond
– Protected 1st Rd Pick

Mitchell Robinson Feels He is Outgrowing Current Role

Robinson, 24, is averaging 7.2 points and 9.0 rebounds with 1.7 blocks for the fifth-seeded Knicks. The 7-foot, 240-pounder is in his fifth pro season out of Western Kentucky after being selected with the 36th-overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft.

He is certainly an intimidating presence in the paint.

The Bulls showed interest in Robinson last offseason before he inked a four-year, $60 million deal to return to the Knicks.

Now, it’s possible he wants out of the Big Apple.

If that were not enough smoke to think there may be some fire, Robinson has also liked a tweet suggesting he would have more of an offensive role if he was traded to the Dallas Mavericks or San Antonio Spurs.

He has since removed the like but the damage appears to be done in some corners of Knicks media

This could be the opportunity the Bulls need to pounce on a player they had eyes on. Robinson is still young enough to fit any timeline and his contract, while pricey, does decrease in value from $15.7 million next season to roughly $13 million in the final season, though he does come with injury concerns.

Bulls Need a New Man in the Middle

Vucevic is slated to be an unrestricted free agent this coming offseason. As Bulls executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas’ first big trade, it has stood to reason that he would be a priority with seemingly few alternatives

But Vucevic has recently thrown a bit of a wrench in that plan, at least as far as presuming it’s a given.

“We’ll see what happens when the time comes to discuss a new contract,” he told Michael Scotto of HoopsHype after a loss to the Brooklyn Nets on February 9. “I feel good here. I’m in a good place. If they want to continue, we can come to an agreement. I’d consider it for sure, but also, being a free agent, I’ll have opportunities to look at other stuff.”

The two-time All-Star’s tenure has been quite polarizing, often being overshadowed by his more explosive teammates DeRozan and LaVine or the lack of team success.

In Vucevic’s defense, the latter preceded him.

There was an adjustment going from a top option as Vucevic was in Orlando with the Magic to a third option in Chicago where the expectations are also higher. That has created some on-court dysfunction for the Bulls that won’t happen with Robinson who knows his strengths.

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Even with the Knicks’ big man wanting more offensive touches, he wouldn’t command near the 14-plus looks Vucevic is getting this season.

While the Bulls would lose some punch offensively from the position, their defense should thrive.