Don’t forget about Nikola Vucevic after the Bulls’ blockbuster offseason
Chicago Bulls fans are certainly a chatty bunch every offseason, but this summer, they actually have plenty worth talking about.
After going 31-41 last season, which sat them 11th in the Eastern Conference, the Bulls were hellbent on making sure their 2021-22 campaign would tell a different story. So they hit the free agency ground running and made major changes to the roster.
For starters, they acquired Lonzo Ball from the New Orleans Pelicans, a pass-first point guard who was rumored to have had his eye on landing in Windy City for some time now. There’s also DeMar DeRozan from the San Antonio Spurs, who at 31 years old, still put up 21.6 points a game on 49.5 percent shooting last season. The Bulls also nabbed Alex Caruso who recently won a championship with the Los Angeles Lakers. Although signing these guys alone is enough to call the offseason a success, who the Bulls parted ways with, deserves some mentioning too.
After months of visible frustration with his role, Lauri Markkanen was moved to the Cleveland Cavaliers (with an added bonus of getting Portland Trail Blazers forward Derrick Jones Jr. in return). Additionally, neither Cristiano Felicio nor Denzel Valentine was brought back, two players who unfortunately became nothing more than necessary bodies on the bench by the end of last season.
Couple all of those with Zach LaVine headlining a squad containing budding young talent like Coby White and Patrick Williams, it is not hard to see why Bulls Nation is ready for October.
But one contributing factor of the team that actually seems to have been forgotten lately is Nikola Vucevic.
The former Orlando Magic star, who was traded to the Bulls in March, should definitely have fans excited going into the new season. Having already averaged 21.5 points on 47.1 percent shooting (38.8 percent from the three-point arc), alongside 11.5 rebounds and 3.9 assists in 32.6 minutes over 26 games last year, it is safe to assume that Vucevic is absolutely going to have a large hand in the team’s future triumphs.
No one should expect his shooting to go anywhere. Although the roster certainly has more balanced offensive power, there is no reason to think that Vucevic will not keep producing buckets, especially from downtown. His rebounding should also keep steady, considering his size and strength (an easy 6-foot-11, 260 pounds).
As for his assists? Well, those are actually bound to increase, given the talent he is now surrounded by. The speed of Vucevic’s passes should be noted as something that will undoubtedly continue to help the group, as he averaged just 1.8 seconds per touch.
While he was recently ranked no. 39 in Sports Illustrated’s Top 100 list, the All-Star big man from Montenegro received a different sort of nod from DeRozan, who explained that Vuvevic was part of the reason he joined the Bulls.
“That was my man for years, even when he was in Orlando, we always was trying to figure out, like, ‘We need to play together, we need to play together.’ Lot of times it would be like, you know, BS. But when the opportunity presented itself after he got traded to Chicago, we had a conversation during the season when we played them late in the season. It was like, ‘Look, you’re a free agent, let’s see what we can do,’ you know what I mean? And I’m like, ‘Imma keep that on my radar.’ And as things transpired it just started making more and more sense. Then having my conversation with (LaVine) and just everything else from there fell into place.”