Bulls’ Insider Details Motivation Behind Vucevic Blockbuster


Nikola Vucevic handles the ball during May 15 game against the Brooklyn Nets.

With the regular season concluded, and the Chicago Bulls‘ non-participants in the postseason, patience is key when it comes to the team’s future and outlook.

Even when it comes to their mid-season trade for two-time All-Star Nikola Vucevic.

No one considered the Bulls as a finished product when he was brought in, and that remains the case today, as they prepare for the offseason.

Vucevic finished his first, 26-game stint in Chicago averaging 21.5 points, 11.5 rebounds, and 3.9 assists per game.

But with Zach LaVine out for an extended period due to a COVID-19 related absence, the Bulls were unable to make their return to the playoffs.

The 2020-2021 campaign is now the fourth straight since Chicago finished as a top-eight team in the Eastern Conference, making a postseason appearance.

Walking into next season, they’re all but counting on that to change.

The latest Bulls news straight to your inbox! Join the Heavy on Bulls newsletter here!

Join Heavy on Bulls!

A Win-Now Move

At the time of the trade deadline, the Chicago Bulls were 19-24, and three games back of the ninth-seed Charlotte Hornets. With eyes on a spot in the play-in tournament, it was clear a talent upgrade was in the cards.

But no one predicted that they’d swing as big as Nikola Vucevic, a two-time All-Star.

It was just as surprising that the Orlando Magic were willing to give him up, though less so when you look at what it took to pry him away: Wendell Carter Jr., Otto Porter Jr., and two-first round picks, starting with this year’s draft.

As NBA.com’s Sam Smith mentioned in his latest mailbag, it’s clear that team executive Arturas Karnisovas prioritized the present over the future:

He seemed to basically decide halfway through that developing Wendell Carter and to a lesser extent Lauri Markkanen was perhaps not the right direction, and he needed to do something significant because if he retained both there wasn’t going to be cap room for free agency that maybe was enough.

Carter Jr. had started 25 of the Bulls’ 32 games up until that point, but was struggling to stay healthy, and had been struggling since he was drafted in 2018.

But he’s done well for himself since landing in Orlando.

A(nother) Ex-Bulls Player Thriving

There’s a certain correlation that can be drawn between players who leave the Chicago Bulls whether by choice or by trade, and how they do on their new teams.

Wendell Carter Jr. for example, finished out the 2020-2021 season as the Magic’s starting center. It’s a role that’s his to lose going forward, as of today. He averaged 11.5 points, 8.8 rebounds, and 1.6 assists in 19 starts for Orlando.

Former second-round picks Chandler Hutchison and Daniel Gafford, are also thriving as key bench contributors for the Washington Wizards.

Fans will have to take solace for now in having a second All-Star to pair with Zach LaVine, and that core’s capability to draw in a third. Bradley Beal is a name that’s surfaced as of late, given his college ties to head coach Billy Donovan.

Nonetheless, not watching the Chicago Bulls take part in the postseason will continue to sting.

Until it doesn’t.

But who’s to say when that will be?

READ NEXT: What Does a LaVine Extension Look Like for the Bulls?