Chicago Bulls: Why the Nikola Vucevic trade could go wrong

Nikola Vucevic, Chicago Bulls Mandatory Credit: Scott Wachter-USA TODAY Sports
Nikola Vucevic, Chicago Bulls Mandatory Credit: Scott Wachter-USA TODAY Sports /

As I said recently in my first story for Pippen Ain’t Easy, stars win in the NBA. And that’s why the Chicago Bulls‘ new front office did what they did at the trade deadline.

However, I didn’t say it guarantees a championship.

Bulls fans generally seem excited about the blockbuster trade that brought all-star center Nikola Vucevic to town on NBA trade deadline day…and rightfully so.

The move pairs Vucevic with star shooting guard Zach LaVine in a deal that likely keeps their first star in town past the 2021-22 season when his contract is up.

With two superstars on its roster, the Bulls clearly are looking to make a playoff run during a season that currently has them on the outside looking in at 19-25. And they are currently two games behind the reigning Eastern Conference Champion Miami Heat.

I’m stating now that I like the move for the Bulls for the reasons above, along with the chemistry I think Vucevic and LaVine will build in the pick-and-pop game. Vucevic is built for today’s NBA and LaVine is down-right nasty – especially on the offensive end.

Future of Nikola Vucevic with the Chicago Bulls

What I do want to do is let you know this could go wrong. This isn’t a reaction after Saturday’s 120-104 loss to the San Antonio Spurs that has me talking this way, either.

As a Michigan native who most recently has watched the Detroit Pistons sit in mediocrity from 2008 to 2020 – finishing no better than eighth and no worse than 13th – the team is officially in rebuild mode. That came despite trying many star experiments from signing former all-star Josh Smith to trading its future, for now, past-his-prime Brooklyn Nets role player Blake Griffin.

Griffin came to Detroit at a younger age than the 30-year-old Vucevic is arriving in Chicago – and albeit Griffin has more of an injury history than Vucevic – there’s still plenty of reasons to question if this move helps the Bulls win a championship.

First off, the first-round draft pick cupboard is bare.

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I mentioned the other day draft picks aren’t guaranteed, and they aren’t. However, they are great trade assets and the Bulls only have their 2022 first round pick in the next three seasons.

Secondly, have you seen their competition?

The Nets are a video game roster with stars Kevin Durant, James Harden, Kyrie Irving, along with former all-stars DeAndre Jordan, LaMarcus Aldridge, and Griffin.

The Heat are the similar, and other rosters better than the bulls include the Philadelphia 76ers, Boston Celtics, Milwaukee Bucks and arguably the New York Knicks, Atlanta Hawks, Charlotte Hornets and others.

With the deadlines moves I put the Bulls in the “arguably” category with the Knicks, Hawks, Hornets, etc., and that isn’t a championship roster. This doesn’t even include the loaded Western Conference.

With Vucevic on the wrong side of 30 before the Bulls get can be considered a top-tier challenger and the NBA becoming more competitive across the board, I write this so you proceed with caution.

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The move is a positive for Chicago, but general manager Marc Eversley and VP of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas have work to do. If you start to settle for making the playoffs vs. winning the whole thing, then you’ll be the 2008-2020 Pistons wondering how to get out of mediocrity…and there’s only one way out.