Nikola Vucevic plays like a superstar in FIBA World Cup win over Mexico

Nikola Vucevic, Chicago Bulls, 2023 FIBA World Cup (Photo by Dante Dennis Diosina Jr/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
Nikola Vucevic, Chicago Bulls, 2023 FIBA World Cup (Photo by Dante Dennis Diosina Jr/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images) /

Set to turn 33 years old this October, this year’s FIBA World Cup was always going to be a big one for Nikola Vucevic. He may never get another chance to bring Montenegro to the forefront of international basketball if he doesn’t capitalize now. Fortunately, he started things off on the right foot this year, emerging victorious in a potential do-or-die duel against Mexico.

Vucevic poured it on early and often, finishing with 27 points (on a ridiculously efficient 11-for-15 shooting, no less), 10 rebounds, and 2 blocks. After playing passively in a few of Montenegro’s exhibition games, Vooch took full control here and steered Montenegro to a decisive 91-71 win.

This victory puts Montenegro in the driver’s seat to advance in Group D. Their next game will take place on August 27th against Egypt. As one of the lowest-ranked teams in the entire competition, Vucevic should hopefully be able to dispatch them easily before moving on to face Lithuania on August 29th. Led by NBA talents Jonas Valanciunas, Donatas Motiejunas, and Deividas Sirvydas, Lithuania is clearly the most dangerous team in the group; but without Domantas Sabonis around to lead this team, there’s a chance Montenegro could pull off the upset and win the group outright.

Nikola Vucevic puts other teams on notice with an electric first performance in the 2023 FIBA World Cup.

Winning the group would be a monumental achievement, as it means they’ll be able to dodge a first-round matchup against the USA in the round of 16. Even if Montenegro only achieves second place in Group D, it should be enough to put them through to the bracket portion of the World Cup for the first time in their nation’s history…

… and none of it would have been possible without the efforts of Vucevic. His impressive play only seems to affirm the controversial statements made by Chicago Bulls general manager Marc Eversley. “If Vooch were to go away, how would you replace him? Those options were just not appealing to us,” said Eversley, “So retaining him became the No. 1 goal of the offseason.”

If Vucevic continues playing like this, I can’t say I fault the front office for these comments.  That being said, the Bulls would do well to actually start using Vooch the way Montenegro and the Orlando Magic did. Despite Stacey King’s best efforts, the Bulls haven’t been able to get Vooch in the post quite as often as they probably should.

Just check out how effective he can be in the low post in his highlight reel from this morning’s action.

Of course, it would be great if Vucevic could shoot a perfect 3-for-3 from deep every game, but that’s simply not sustainable. What is more sustainable, however, is getting Vooch involved with the pick and roll and allowing him to exploit mismatches against smaller defenders — something Chicago certainly struggled with last season.

If Vucevic continues playing like this and Montenegro keeps piling on World Cup wins, we’ll just have more and more tape to prove he can still be a productive All-Star caliber player in the NBA.

Next. 5 players the Bulls gave up on way too soon. dark