Introductions are stupid, let’s get to the good stuff!
Frame: 7’0″, 260 lbs
Years in the league: 2011-present
Teams: Philly (2011-12), Orlando (2012-2021)
All-Star Appearances: 2 (2019, 2021)
Career numbers: 16.7 ppg (49.7 FG%, 35.3 3PT%), 10.3 reb, 2.6 ast, 0.9 stl
2020-21 season: 24.5 ppg (48.0 FG%, 40.6 3PT%), 11.8 reb, 3.8 ast, 1.0 stl
2020-21: $26 million
2021-22: $24 million
2022-23: $22 million
Takeaway: If we consider Vucevic’s production, this is a pretty valuable contract. He will now be the team’s highest-paid player for at least the next two seasons, assuming they don’t add a shocking addition this offseason or come to terms on an early extension with Zach LaVine (currently set to make $19.5 million next year in the final season of his contract).
Where He Fits
“It’s easy to add Nikola to the way we play. We put him in an offense that is free-flowing, a lot of ball-movement and decision-making, and he can score. He can score in the low, he can score in the three, he is a facilitator. I think one of the best things that he can do is he can facilitate shots for others, besides the fact that he is a 25 and 12 player. So we were very excited … he is going to make everybody’s lives much easier.”
If we’re being honest, I’m not sure the Bulls could have landed an available player at this deadline that better fits with what they are trying to do. The versatile big man can space the floor and score at all three levels. He perfectly meshes with the Bulls’ surprisingly efficient offense, being only one of two centers in the league to shoot above 40 percent on at least 4.0 three-point attempts per game (Julius Randle is classified as the other by NBA.com, but he clocks most of his minutes at power forward, so Vooch is basically in a club of his own). Vucevic is also leading the league in 3-point percentage from the top of the arc, according to Kirk Goldsberry, who shared a stellar display of Vucevic’s ridiculous shooting numbers.
Check it out:
In Nikola Vucevic, Chicago just landed one of the most prolific and efficient shooting bigs in the NBA. pic.twitter.com/qqne8hTWfq
— Kirk Goldsberry (@kirkgoldsberry) March 25, 2021
We shouldn’t just harp on his 3-point shooting, though.
The Bulls score the 7th-most points in the paint per game, and Vucevic currently has a more than serviceable clip at the rim, knocking down 57.9 percent of his shots in the restricted area. He also provides the Bulls with something they didn’t have down-low – a player who can finally post up. The seven-footer is one the most frequent post-up players in the league, averaging 11.1 attempts per game, which is second behind only MVP-candidate Joel Embiid. What’s even better news for the Bulls is that Vucevic has become one of the best passers out of post-up situations this season, leading the league with 52 assists (second his Nikola Jokic with 48).
And that brings us to the next reason Vucevic should experience a rather seamless transition: his career-high 3.8 assists per game.
Vucevic’s assist percentage sits at 21.3 percent, which ranks in the league’s 93rd percentile per Cleaning the Glass. I know it may not feel like much, but that is great news for head coach Billy Donovan. We know that he has wanted his big man to play a key role as the secondary playmaker. He first tried this with Wendell Carter Jr. earlier in their season, allowing him to handle the ball a bit more at the perimeter and make decisions in the pocket. The third-year center ultimately struggled, and that is why we saw him turn to a small-ball lineup with
Thaddeus Young Thadgic Johnson. Vucevic can now take away some of that facilitating responsibility and open up the offense even more thanks to his threat to score from literally anywhere on the court.
We also should mention Vucevic has found a way to limit his mistakes while carrying this versatile workload. His 1.9 TOVs per game and 8.6 TOV% (89th percentile) is huge news for a Bulls team that averages the most turnovers per game. Likewise, he commits just 1.8 fouls per game (career-best) and has a 2.0 percent foul percentage (98th percentile). Good stuff.
As for his rebounding prowess, well, there isn’t much to say other than he is one of the best in the game. He averages 11.8 per game which is the 5th-most in the league. You need a board … the man will get it.
I’m Most Excited About …
If thinking about the Zach LaVine and Nikola Vucevic two-man game isn’t enough to make you salivate … then something is wrong with you (sorry, I don’t make the rules).
Two of the most efficient scorers at their respective positions, this pairing truly could work their way up the dynamic duo ranks. LaVine averages the 4th-most points per game as the pick-and-roll ballhandler, and he averages the 6th most possession as such per game, per NBA.com. Meanwhile, Vucevic leads the league in points per game as the roll man, and he is 2nd in possessions. Vucevic is also averaging 40.6 percent from downtown and 48.5 percent from 2-point range in catch-and-shoot situations. In other words, operating in pick-and-roll and pick-and-pop situations has become second-nature to these two, and I expect it to make for a beautiful partnership.
I think LaVine would agree:
"I've always wanted to play with a dominant big… the combination of us in pick & roll and pick & pop is going to be deadly." -Zach on playing with Vooch. pic.twitter.com/VG1VkO4B4L
— Chicago Bulls (@chicagobulls) March 26, 2021
The Biggest Concern:
Vucevic isn’t a prolific defender.
The guy does play physical and his seven-foot frame isn’t easy to push around, but his lack of explosiveness and speed holds him back from being a tough assignment. The Bulls already play a drop coverage, and that will have to stay the gameplan moving forward with Vucevic in the mix. Don’t get me wrong, he is by no means a liability, but he just isn’t anything special, and that is why we saw this Bulls add the scrappy Daniel Theis.