The Chicago Bulls had a successful 2021-22 season. They made the playoffs for the first time since 2017 and had two players (DeMar DeRozan, Zach LaVine) on the All-Star team.
Unfortunately, the Bulls’ season ended on a sour note. They lost to the Milwaukee Bucks in five games in the first round of the playoffs, losing games 3, 4 and 5 overwhelmingly.
Bulls executive vice president Arturas Karnisovas told reporters during his exit interview that he wanted to keep his core and build continuity. However, Bleacher Report’s Zach Buckley believes Chicago should trade its third All-Star this summer.
In a May 4 article, Buckley suggested the Bulls trade Nikola Vucevic to the Dallas Mavericks for Dwight Powell, Reggie Bullock and a future first-round pick (lottery protected). The Bleacher Report insider believes Bullock and Powell would help the Bulls become a better defensive team.
“Assuming the Bulls plan to move forward with the DeRozan-LaVine duo — the latter expecting full agency — they may need to make a move in the middle,” Buckley wrote. “They would lose a little scoring on this deal, but they could become exponentially more mobile and athletic by adding Bullock on the perimeter and Powell on the inside. Throw in a future first and the Chicago front office would gain a trade chip if they wanted to make any more defensive upgrades.”
Vucevic has featured in 73 games this season. The two-time All-Star averaged 17.6 points, 11.0 rebounds and 3.2 assists while shooting 47.3% from the field, 31.4% from beyond the arc and 76.0% from the free throw line, which are solid numbers.
However, with the Bulls finishing the season 23rd in defensive efficiency, Buckley believes Vucevic should be traded for two better defenders in Bullock and Powell this offseason.
The Bulls allowed the fourth most field goals within five feet and the ninth most color points. Vucevic averaged 1.0 blocks and finished the season with a 109.6 defensive rating.
“Lonzo Ball and Alex Caruso covered up these shortcomings as best they could, but injuries forced them off the ground and cracks had already formed in the cover,” Buckley wrote. “Chicago offered very little resistance on the inside, allowing the fourth most field goals within five feet and the ninth most color points.
“While these issues cannot all be blamed on Vucevic, his limitations at that end were cemented well before the end of the season. In the past he’d compensated on offense with quantity-plus-quality numbers, but he never quite found his niche this season as the Bulls’ third banana behind DeMar DeRozan and Zach LaVine. In other words, Chicago couldn’t get enough of Vucevic’s strengths, but had to endure all of his weaknesses.”
Bullock and Powell are solid defenders who can pack some punch on offense as well. The former is a 38.5% career shooter from beyond the arc, while the latter is an athletic rim roller that can get to the finish line in heavy traffic. Powell shot 78.2% on the rim this season with the Mavericks.
While Buckley thinks the Bulls should part ways with Vucevic for Bullock and Powell, it doesn’t sound like Karnisovas is interested in trading the USC product.
Karnisovas spoke highly of Vucevic in his exit interview, calling the big man “an essential part of what we do on offense.”
“He was one of our longest-lived players,” Karnisovas said of Vucevic. “And I think if you think about the rotations, the guards going in and out, the wings going in and out, I think he probably would have been the hardest guy to replace, but he stayed available and he was an important part of what we direct on offense.”
Vucevic will earn $22 million next season. The Bulls may sign him for an extension this offseason.