Two and a half seasons ago, the Chicago Bulls made the rash decision to mortgage the future by trading Wendell Carter Jr. and two very valuable first-round picks for an over-the-hill veteran in Nikola Vucevic. Although this move was made with the intent to win now, this decision set the franchise back considerably, and we now find ourselves right back where we started and asking ourselves the same questions.
So, who really should be the starting center for the Chicago Bulls next season?
Of course, the Bulls could opt to bring Vooch back for another go next season. Despite the team significantly struggling and achieving nothing in that time span, I’m confident the front office will find a way to justify their poor decisions. In fact, they appear to already be well on their way to that inevitable outcome.
But what if the Bulls looked externally for help this summer? Up against the cap, the pickings are slim. However, I do think there’s a real opportunity for Chicago to make a bounce-back next season, even if Vucevic isn’t on the roster.
If the Bulls decide to retool in free agency, these three players could all be improvements over Nikola Vucevic.
3. Naz Reid
Back in 2019, we over here at Pippen Ain’t Easy were high on Naz Reid ahead of the NBA Draft. During this season’s trade deadline, I specifically highlighted Naz Reid as a potential target for the Bulls to bolster their frontcourt depth. Even just one month ago, fellow writer Satya Damaraju noted that Reid could be a perfect replacement for Vucevic if he bolts in free agency.
I think it’s fair to say we’ve been on the Naz Reid bandwagon for quite some time now.
Buried behind Karl-Anthony Towns and Rudy Gobert, Reid has not been given a role adequate for his talents, as the big man has yet to average above 20 minutes per game in any one of his four seasons in the NBA. It’s not for a lack of talent, however, as he’s been extremely productive with the time he’s been given.
Reid posted averages of 11.5 points, 4.9 rebounds, and 0.8 blocks per game this past season. If adjusted for a starter’s role, those numbers leap up to 22.5 points, 9.6 rebounds, and 2.2 assists per 36 minutes. When you also factor in that Reid is a willing shooter (knocking down 34.6% on three-point attempts over the last three years), it just makes a lot of sense to pursue a player that can provide the same production as Vucevic on a much cheaper deal.
Since he made his way into the league as an undrafted rookie, the Timberwolves will not have restricted rights to Reid this summer. This opens up an opportunity for a team like the Bulls to strike. By balancing out the roster with a much better defender that can still shoot the ball and rebound at a high level, the Bulls could bounce back as a much-improved team next summer.