You don’t need to order many Italian beefs to feed the Nikola Vucevic fan club. The group has gone from reserving a 1,000-seat theater to something more the size of a kindergarten classroom. The main reason for which was a lackluster 2021-22 campaign, where Vucevic averaged his fewest points since the 2017-18 season and shot his worst mark from behind the arc since that same year.
Now, to be clear, I’m still sitting in that tiny classroom chair on Tuesday nights. I think the bulk of the frustration Vucevic has received since coming to Chicago has been rather misguided. It’s not his fault the organization decided to give up the assets they did to acquire him. It’s also not his fault that he was asked to play alongside three other offensive-minded All-Stars.
Vucevic was taken from a situation that was specifically curated to his elite skillet and placed into a situation that asked him to be something he wasn’t. The fact that’s come with a few bumps in the road shouldn’t be all that surprising.
Not to mention, a lot of what Vucevic does can go naturally underappreciated. Being one of the better screen-setters in the NBA simply isn’t sexy, nor is being one of the better connective passers. And, of course, the same goes for being one of the best rebounders, which is actually something he continues to do at an historic level.
Vucevic surpassed the 8,000 rebound mark this past weekend against Dallas and Atlanta, moving into 74th all-time in total rebounds. He is now one of just five players currently on an NBA roster with that many career rebounds, joining LeBron James, DeAndre Jordan, Kevin Love, and teammate Andre Drummond.
Vucevic is averaging 10.7 boards a game, which makes this 10 of the past 12 seasons that he’s averaged at least double-digit rebounds a night. He currently sits sixth in the NBA in total rebounds after finishing last season in fifth, and his offensive rebounding percentage is the highest it’s been since his first All-Star season in 2018-19.
The big man is also now tied for having the fifth-most double-doubles this season at 13, and his 23 rebounds against Boston on Oct. 24 were the second-most by any player this season.
For a Bulls team that – despite adding another high-end rebounder in Drummond – continues to lack size and length in the frontcourt, Vucevic has been key. Again, I understand that the overall product this season may not be the most inspiring, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t celebrate these kinds of individual achievements. Vucevic is truly one of the best at cleaning the glass, and I think it’s kind of cool that we get to say that about a Chicago Bull.