The Chicago Bulls have a Nikola Vucevic problem

Chicago Bulls v Miami Heat - Play-In Tournament
Chicago Bulls v Miami Heat - Play-In Tournament / Rich Storry/GettyImages

If there is one thing that has been consistent about the Chicago Bulls over recent years, it’s been their horrible asset management. 

They’ve traded away players too soon (Lauri Markkanen) or waited too long to trade them (Alex Caruso, DeMar DeRozan, Zach LaVine), which is how you end up winning 39 games with a team that also has no cap space, draft assets or much young talent. 

Possibly the worst mistake was trading for Nikola Vucevic, as the Magic were able to land Franz Wagner with one of the picks and Wendell Carter Jr might be a better fit with Chicago and costs less. 

The Jimmy Butler trade continues to get worse for the Bulls. The Jimmy Butler trade continues to get worse for the Bulls. dark. Related Story

Similar to their issues with Zach LaVine, the Chicago Bulls also have problems with Nikola Vucevic. 

Nikola Vucevic is no longer the player the Bulls traded for 

The Vucevic the Bulls traded for was a stretch five who shot 40 percent from long range on over six attempts per game, a valuable commodity in the modern NBA. 

He was an All-Star in his prime averaging over 23 points and 11 rebounds per game, a true offensive weapon. 

While his counting stats haven't dipped too dramatically, Vucevic’s efficiency from 3-point range has plummeted along with his attempts. His attempts have gone down each year he has been with the Bulls, culminating in just over four per game this season. 

The worst part is that he is no longer making them, as he hit just 29 percent this season, lowest of his career since he started shooting them. 

And if Vucevic isn’t hitting 3’s, he’s just another guy. He shot just 48 percent from the floor last season, 61st in the NBA, while all of the top centers shoot near 60 percent or above. 

Vucevic has lost a step on defense 

Vucevic was never a great defender, but he has lost a step and is no longer blocking even a single shot per game. 

He doesn’t have the footspeed to switch on the perimeter, all things you could live with when he was an offensive force and giving the Bulls an advantage with his long-range shooting. 

Now he’s just an inefficient center who doesn’t move well, not great value for $20 million, especially when you consider the Bulls could have both Franz Wagner and Wendell Carter Jr for three million less.

Trading Nikola Vucevic won’t be easy 

And don’t think the rest of the league hasn’t noticed. 

The Bulls won’t have an easy time trading the two years, $41 million left on Vucevic’s deal. On the positive side, he’s durable and will still give you a double-double every night. The negative is that he is no longer doing it in ways that will excite NBA teams, who are either looking for skilled bigs who shoot or make plays or guys who protect the rim and run in transition. 

Vucevic is none of those things, so the Bulls can’t expect much return if they are able to trade him. He could still be a stabilizing force on a young team like Jonas Valanciunas was in New Orleans, but how much are teams really going to pay for that? 

The Bulls may be stuck with a player who is in decline and no longer doing the things you need a center to do in the modern NBA. 

It’s a familar position for the Bulls, who have held onto this current roster for too long and are now stuck with guys who are too good to just give away but not good enough to really compete for the playoffs.