3. Nikola Vucevic
Bulls center Nikola Vucevic is arguably the biggest X-Factor in this play-in game against the Raptors. Over the course of the season, Vooch has been an incredibly up-and-down player, sometimes putting up dominant performances and others either staying on the perimeter too often or not asserting himself enough.
The Bulls will need their big man to perform on both sides of the ball on Wednesday, as he will need to provide a huge scoring boost as well as decent play on defense. The Chicago Bulls struggled with offense in the playoffs against the Bucks, averaging just over 95 points per game in the 5 game series.
This cannot happen again, and it is up to Vucevic and the role players to help Zach LaVine and DeMar DeRozan with the scoring effort. Vooch has to use his size and scoring ability to impose his will upon the Raptors’ defense. Plays like these are ones that can invigorate the team and lead to a winning effort:
Vucevic also needs to show up on the defensive end, where he has struggled at times during the season. One of the most important things for the Raptors game is that Jakob Poeltl needs to be shut down. The 7-foot-1 center has dominated the Bulls over the past three years, averaging 17.4 points and 10.4 rebounds on 71.8% shooting in 8 games.
This is an unacceptable mark for a guy who has averaged 10.7 PPG and 8.3 RPG over this same timeframe, as the Bulls keep allowing players like Poeltl to shine. This will be Vooch’s main defensive assignment, and it is key that he plays physically and goes up for rebounds, as Poeltl has been elite on the offensive glass. If Vucevic is able to bear down and take the Raptors center out of the equation, we may see the Chicago Bulls live to fight another day.