Proposed Bulls Trade Would Send Nikola Vucevic to Western Conference

Nikola Vucevic, Chicago Bulls

Getty Nikola Vucevic #9 of the Chicago Bulls.

The Chicago Bulls are mired in trade rumors amid another sluggish start to the season.

After going 6-6 through their first 12 games last season, in which they finished 40-42, the Bulls are just 4-8 to start the 2023-24 campaign.

Zach LaVine shows up in trade rumors the most these days. Shams Charania of The Athletic reported the guard and the Bulls are more open to a trade than ever. DeMar DeRozan’s name has been a close second. But what about Nikola Vucevic?

“If some team is willing to offer a first (even a protected one) for Vučević, it’ll be hard to say no,” wrote Andy Bailey of Bleacher Report on November 14. “This deal gives them a 22-year-old, 6’8″ wing who’s been way below replacement level for his career but still has plenty of time to develop.”

Bulls get:

Grizzlies get:

  • Nikola Vucevic

Bulls Could Get Floor Spacing, Upside in Proposed Trade

Kennard, 27, is averaging 8.3 points per game this season while shooting 37% from beyond the arc. That ties his second-fewest points and is the worst efficiency in his career. But he is a career 43.5% shooter from deep, twice leading the league in efficiency from deep.

He is in the third year of a four-year, $56 million contract with a team option for the 2024-25 season.

Williams, 22, was the No. 10 overall pick of the NBA draft in 2021. He is averaging career-highs with 8.3 points, 5.1 rebounds, and 1.1 assists. But he has not been able to recreate his promising 31.4% mark from deep as a rookie over the last two seasons (26.8%)

The appeal of the proposal above for the 2-9 Grizzlies is apparent.

They are without Steven Adams who was lost for the season due to a knee injury. That leaves a significant void that they have filled with a combination of Bismack Biyombo and Xavier Tillman to little avail. They also sit at the bottom of the Western Conference standings after finishing second last season.

In theory, Vucevic gives them a reliable rebounder in Adams’ absence as well as a capable floor-spacer around dynamic point guard Ja Morant when his 25-game suspension ends.

Nikola Vucevic Has Been More Involved, Less Efficient

The Bulls re-signed Vucevic, 32, to a three-year, $60 million contract extension just ahead of free agency this past offseason. The move received harsh criticism in some NBA circles. But general manager Marc Eversley said it was their “No. 1 priority” to bring the big man back.

Vucevic is averaging a double-double for the sixth straight season, and the 10th time in 13 NBA seasons, with 17.6 points and 10.8 rebounds. He is also averaging 2.9 assists.

However, his three-point efficiency has cratered to 29.3%, his lowest mark since 2015-16.

The Bulls surrendered a significant amount of assets to acquire Vucevic. There was speculation that that played a big part in the decision to bring him back. Vucevic flirted with the idea of visiting other teams in free agency. He returned in large part because of a belief he would be featured more in the offense.

He has been more involved. Per Basketball Reference, his 23% usage rate is better than his mark from last season (21.5%). But it is still below the 24.5% mark he set in his first season in Chicago and his 24.7% usage rate in his career.

Vucevic, a two-time All-Star, is sporting a 53.1% true shooting mark this season. That ties the third-worst of his entire career.

Perhaps a change would be best for everyone.

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