In the spirit of the spooky season, Bleacher Report’s Zach Buckley went ghost-hunting for each NBA franchise’s most haunting trade, whose repercussions can still be felt this season. For the Chicago Bulls following, this is not a hard one to guess. In March of 2021, the new vice president of basketball operations, Arturas Karnisovas, wanted to make a statement of aggression in his first season with the team and executed the biggest blockbuster leaguewide at the trade deadline. To push the Bulls from the fringe to the playoff picture, he brought in back-to-back All-Star center Nikola Vucevic from Orlando in exchange for a haul of young talent and draft capital. Did Bleacher Report correctly nail the most painful trade for the Bulls of late, and just how destructive has the aftermath been in Chicago?
Paying Top Dollar
As a back-to-back All-Star selection and three-year running 20-point, 10-rebound center, Nikola Vucevic was not a cheap acquisition for Chicago. In their most significant trade since Jimmy Butler’s departure for Zach LaVine and Lauri Markkanen with the Minnesota Timberwolves and Karnisovas’s first significant move as leader of the front office, this trade fell flat on its face. Not only did Chicago fail to make the postseason, the main objective of the transaction, but they’ve only made one appearance in three years since and have only one playoff victory to show for it.
Meanwhile, Orlando’s made the most of their assets. One of the Bulls’ draft picks became NBA All-Rookie First Team selection Franz Wagner, while the other could be one of the league’s top three-point threats down the road, shooting 5-10 from deep with 21 points in his most preseason action. Wendell Carter has had a very similar stat line to Vucevic, and being nine years younger, many Bulls fans were upset at the swap. Vucevic has averaged 17.6 points, 11 rebounds, and 3.2 assists per game over the last two years, while Carter has posted over 15 points, 10 rebounds, and two assists per contest with more efficiency and defensive impact.
Tides Starting To Turn For Vucevic
Although this trade is still rightfully categorized as a loss for the Bulls, Vucevic has trended upward over the last year. Last season, he played in all 82 games for the first time in his career, had a 5% increase in his shooting percentage from the field from 2021 and his highest in eight years, increased his three-point clip by 3%, and decreased his turnovers. Although Chicago’s record hasn’t reflected the individual improvement, Vucevic earned himself an extension this offseason with the stellar 2022 campaign.
To start 2023, Vucevic was a bit slow out of the gates, only averaging 11 points and eight rebounds per game through Chicago’s first three outings. In their latest victory against the Pacers, he turned it up a notch, scoring 24 points on 10-of-19 from the field, a season-high six free throw tries, and grabbed a season-best 17 boards to lead the Bulls on the road. Going through the big man has often translated to success for Chicago and will be a common theme this season as they look for just their second playoff berth since his arrival from Orlando.
Do you agree with Buckley’s assessment of Chicago’s worst trade in recent history, and just how far back has it set this franchise currently stuck in mediocrity?