Decision #1: Bulls swap Carter, Porter, and picks to acquire Nikola Vucevic
In the moment, Trading for Nikola Vucevic seemed reasonable. At the time of the trade, he was averaging 24.5 points, 11.8 rebounds, and 3.8 assists on 48% shooting from the field and — importantly — over 40% from three. Playing out the string for a brutal Magic team, Vucevic was clearly available and general manager Artūras Karnišovas made his first major trade as an executive. The package included the expiring contract of Otto Porter Jr., Wendell Carter Jr., and two picks: a 2021 top-4 protected first, and the same in 2023.
Vucevic has been by no means bad in Chicago, averaging 17.6 points, 11 rebounds, and 3.2 assists since the beginning of last season. The drop in scoring was expected surrounded by two high-volume wings, but Vucevic has remained a liability on defense and, more importantly, fallen off from three. Shooting on 34% from deep over the last two seasons, he can’t space the floor as he did in Orlando and ultimately doesn’t make up for his Charmin defense.
What compounds the issue is that the 2021 first was used to select Franz Wagner, who has seemingly emerged as a core piece for the Magic. Similarly, while Carter has had trouble staying healthy, his 16 and 9 combined with solid defense makes the trade seem like a net disaster.
I’d argue, however, that the Bulls would be in a similar position today. Vucevic is likely to leave in free agency, but they would have needed to pay Carter regardless. Assuming they take Wagner (not a guarantee) he’s not yet the type of player to elevate a team into contention. All things remaining equal; after the DeRozan trade happens and LaVine is re-signed there would still be discussions about shipping off both to build around youth.