Andre Drummond continues to outplay Vucevic off Bulls bench

Chicago Bulls v Utah Jazz
Chicago Bulls v Utah Jazz / Alex Goodlett/GettyImages

Although the front office would likely prefer to continue ignoring the Chicago Bulls' issues in the frontcourt, this is becoming a problem this team simply can't afford to neglect any longer — Nikola Vucevic is inadequate as a starting center. With so many promising young bigs making names for themselves this season, it's painfully obvious that Chicago would have been better off going in a different direction at center last season.

Offered a hefty three-year, $60 million extension, I can't say I'm surprised Vucevic hastily accepted the Bulls' offer in free agency. Simply put, there was no other team league interested in paying him that much money. This left a large portion of the fanbase confused, as it seemed the Bulls were only bidding against themselves.

As if this wasn't reason enough to be concerned, worries over Vucevic's ability to hold the starting center role for now and for the next three years have only been exacerbated by the play of his backup off the bench. That player, of course, being none other than Andre Drummond.

Having already established himself as one of the greatest rebounders in NBA history, Drummond doesn't have anything left to prove. He may have never reached superstar heights in the league, but his legacy on the boards is thoroughly cemented.

Drummond's status as a phenomenal rebounder is why the Bulls brought him in the first place. Chicago has been a notoriously poor rebounding team over the last few years, so he seemed like a natural fit. The Bulls' stats on the glass immediately improved following the arrival of Drummond, which was to be expected. What was unexpected, however, is that he'd eventually outperform incumbent starter Vucevic.

Advanced stats suggest Andre Drummond, not Nikola Vucevic, is the most impactful center on the Bulls.

I wrote back in February about how Vucevic's poor play is costing the Bulls several wins. He's shooting the ball at a historically poor rate, and failing to convert on simple plays, as highlighted by a botched pick-and-roll with Coby White that lost Chicago a close game in the final seconds against the Cleveland Cavaliers.

We got more of the same from him last night, as Vucevic was outplayed by Ivica Zubac in the low post while Kawhi Leonard and Paul George took turns abusing him in the paint. To make matters worse, Andre Drummond once again outplayed Vucevic off the bench. In a blowout loss to the Clippers, the Bulls were outscored by 22 points with Vucevic on the court, but were actually 2 points better than LA during Drummond's 16 minutes played.

Don't be mistaken, this was hardly a fluke game. Rather, it's indicative of a larger season-wide problem. The Bulls improve by 1.6 points per 100 possessions when Drummond plays compared to when he sits out. Vucevic, on the other hand, has made the Bulls 4.4 points per 100 possessions worse when he plays relative to when he rests on the bench.

As a result, Drummond has racked up .159 win shares per 48 minutes, while Vucevic only contributes .09 win shares per 48. Try as they might, the front office can't refute these stats. The Bulls are better with Drummond on the court and Vucevic on the bench.

I was surprised to see Drummond accept his team-friendly player option to return to the Bulls, but it seems that gambit may have paid off. Drummond has proven his value this season, and I expect him to be fairly compensated in free agency this summer.

Unfortunately, it looks unlikely that the Bulls will be able to keep him around. In large part thanks to the obscene amount of money paid to Vucevic. Meanwhile, Vooch is already playing poorly and declining by the year. If Vucevic's contract already looks this bad at the age of 33, I dread to think of how I'll feel about it when he's still being paid big money at 36.

I wish I could put an optimistic spin on this situation, but Arturas Karnisovas' track record as Chicago's lead decision-maker speaks for itself. This blunder may come to haunt the Bulls for years to come. With only 15 games left on the season, the Bulls will soon have to search for alternatives at center if they have any hope of returning to contention next season.

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