How Nikola Vucevic can still be a crucial Chicago Bulls pieceAnish Puligillaon June 1, 2022 at 12:00 pm

The Chicago Bulls are in an extremely interesting position as a team this summer. With a combination of players in different stages of their careers, they are currently riding the fence between trying to win now and developing their young talent to construct a perennial juggernaut.

They’re spearheaded by their vets in DeMar DeRozan and Nikola Vucevic. Zach LaVine is the young star that was brought to Chicago to support. Waiting in the wings to take over are the likes of Patrick Williams, Lonzo Ball, and Ayo Dosunmu.

However, the Bulls have a problem. The mismatch of talent and experience across their roster makes free-agent and other front office decision-making even more difficult as AKME has to weigh the promise of the future with their goals today.

No one player speaks to this conundrum more than Nikola Vucevic. Vucevic, who was brought to the Bulls via trade at the all-star break in 2021, was said to be the prolific and dominant big man Zach LaVine has never had in Chicago.

Coming off back-to-back all-star seasons, he was a sure-fire member of the big 3 and a player that kicked off the process for Chicago to land Lonzo Ball and DeMar DeRozan.

Unfortunately, and by his own admission, Vucevic did not play up to his usual standard in 2021-22. While he still averaged around 17 points per game and pulled down double-digit rebounds, he was a liability from three-point range.

It was a shot that opponents began willingly giving up to him as the Bulls began their tumultuous fall down the Eastern Conference standings in March.

He additionally isn’t the greatest defensively but gets way too much criticism for his play on that end of the floor when a good portion of it should be directed to those on the perimeter letting themselves get beat consistently.

While he did bounce back in the playoffs with a decent showing against Milwaukee, where the Bulls go from here and how they see Vucevic’s role going forward are major unknowns especially as he is set to enter a contract year in 2022-23.

Nikola Vucevic’s future role for the Chicago Bulls in 2022-23 is unknown.

While Vucevic is only 31 and likely has a couple of years of his prime left, one role I could see him thriving in and helping the Bulls be even better is in an ‘Al Horford’ type role.

One thing most Chicago Bulls fans should be picking up on, if they’ve been following the eastern conference playoffs, is that the now Eastern-Conference champs Boston Celtics are a final form version of the Bulls roster.

With a deep bench of defensive wings and guards, two prolific scorers in Tatum and Brown on the wings, and an all-defense point guard in Marcus Smart they have a tough, sound championship-level team.

However, in addition to all that they also have a rotation of big men with Robert Williams, Al Horford, and Daniel Theis who all contribute in some way offensively and defensively.

If the Chicago Bulls were able to figure out a way to land someone like Mitchell Robinson (who can be that defensive anchor) and let Vucevic work in that ‘Horford’ role, the Bulls would all of a sudden have an extremely formidable frontcourt.

They’d still need another ‘big man’ who can rotate in with them but the Bulls’ frontcourt would become a major strength for this team.

A lot is yet to be seen with what the Bulls want to do and even if they did want to do this, it’s tough to know whether or not Vucevic would accept this role.

Being that he is 31 and Horford is 35, he may feel insulted at the prospect of playing a lesser role. However, should everyone opt-in, this type of scenario could resolve the Chicago Bulls’ frontcourt problems.

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