Chicago Bulls: Nikola Vucevic defending at a high level this season

Nikola Vucevic, Chicago Bulls (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)
Nikola Vucevic, Chicago Bulls (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images) /

Although this could be a trend that eventually reverses itself, it is really interesting to see the likes of the former Orlando Magic star center Nikola Vucevic actually playing solid defense on a regular basis for the Chicago Bulls. The two-time All-Star selection and nearly 31-year-old big man (Vucevic’s birthday is on Oct. 24) got off to a slow start offensively this season, which is unusual for him.

Where it gets really weird for Vucevic in the first two games of the regular season slate is with his defensive production. Outside of defensive rebounding, Vucevic is not known for being a plus defender by any means. Yet, that didn’t stop him from being one of the best defenders in the first two games of the regular season, and throughout the four preseason games for the Bulls.

While Vucevic shot 11-of-32 from the field and 2-of-8 from beyond the arc to start the season, the Bulls have picked up the offense around him. But Vucevic has helped to pick up the pace for the Bulls on the defensive end of the floor to start the season. He sits second on the team in defensive win shares and third in defensive box plus/minus through two games.

Those metrics could change in a hurry as we’re only two games into an 82-game regular season slate. But it’s interesting to see so far.

Nikola Vucevic disrupting on defense and playing good help defense as part of a new trend for the Chicago Bulls

Moreover, Vucevic just had one of the best defensive outings of his career statistically in the Bulls win over the New Orleans Pelicans in the home opener on the night of Oct. 22. He registered four steals and two blocks, both tying a game-high. Vucevic was good in help defense and held strong against a solid offensive big man in Jonas Valanciunas. The recently extended center Valanciunas did have a good night, going 8-of-11 from the field.

But Vucevic did help the Bulls to get the edge in turnovers and be competitive in points in the paint.

It was mainly the help defense that was impressive for Vucevic not only in this game but since the start of the preseason. Vucevic is more active as a disruptor in passing lanes, and he’s more aware playing off-ball defense.

This seems to be a theme for Donovan and the Bulls this season to play defense at a higher level than most players on this roster did at their previous stops. But this change statistically for Vucevic at the outset of the season is an outlier. He’s got -0.2 offensive win shares and 0.2 defensive win shares through two games.

There was a similar trend for him throughout the last three preseason games.

We’ll see how this plays out with Vucevic in the coming days and weeks. It will be interesting to see if he gets back on track offensively while maintaining this new status as a plus defender down low, when the Bulls take on the Pistons for the second time in three games at home at the United Center on the night of Oct. 23.

Next. 2 studs, 1 dud, from win over the Pelicans. dark

Following their win over the Pelicans in the home opener on Oct. 22 at the United Center, the Bulls carry a record of 2-0. They tip-off against the Pistons for the second time in the last four days at the United Center on Oct. 23 at 7 p.m. CT.