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Nikola Vucevic Is Heating Up At The Right Time For The Bulls

Vucevic finding his rhythm gives the Bulls a three-headed monster with few parallels across the league.

Nikola Vucevic Bulls
Photo: ChicagoBulls/Twitter

At the 2021 NBA trade deadline, we knew the Chicago Bulls wanted to be active. Arturas Karnisovas and Marc Eversley were seeking to rapidly and significantly improve the team. Even though we thought they were going to make moves, it was hard to envision them trading for two-time All-Star Nikola Vucevic.

But it did happen, and it was a bold move. The Bulls acquired a stud center who was averaging 24.5 PPG and 11.8 RPG on 48% shooting and 40.6% from three. Chicago finally had a player to complement Zach LaVine.

Of course, the Bulls followed up that swap by signing a couple of big-time free agents in the offseason. DeMar DeRozan, Lonzo Ball, and Alex Caruso headlined a class of new players joining LaVine and Vucevic. With all of that talent joining the team, fans and analysts alike figured both LaVine and Vucevic would thrive with less pressure on their shoulders.

Start of the Season

Nikola Vucevic got off to a slow start, especially scoring the ball. There’s no other way to put it. It started with the very first game of the season. In a 94-88 win over the Detroit Pistons, Vucevic put up 15 points and 15 boards. Those are respectable numbers without context, but he scored 15 on 7-21 shooting and 1-4 from three. Still, there was not a lot of concern. It just seemed like an off-night for the Bulls’ All-Star center.

The problem was Vucevic’s struggles continuing. For the month of October, Vucevic put up 15.8 PPG and 11 RPG on 38.9/32.0/72.2 shooting splits. On a team with Zach LaVine and DeMar DeRozan commanding most of the attention from opposing defenses, it started to get concerning.

When November hit, Vucevic’s numbers got worse. He averaged 13.6 PPG and 11.3 RPG, albeit on slightly better shooting from the field (44.5%) and from three (34.2%). Those numbers were largely helped by a Nov. 29 matchup with the Charlotte Hornets, in which Vucevic put up 30 points and 14 boards. In that game, he hit six threes without missing and shot 12-19 (63.2%) from the field.

December

Vucevic followed that performance against the Hornets with another nice showing on Dec. 2 against the New York Knicks. He dropped 27 points on 55.6% shooting and 55.6% from three in that contest. It seemed like things were beginning to turn around, but then Vucevic hit another slump. Over his next four games, Vucevic hit just 24 of his 75 shots (32%) and six of his 22 threes (27.2%) to score 14.8 PPG.

Source: ESPN

Last Four Games

While it may be jumping the gun, it seems Nikola Vucevic is starting to turn his season around. As the team has dealt with a rotation of players sidelined due to COVID, Vucevic has been extremely steady over the past four games. He’s returning to putting up numbers more in line with what he was doing for the Bulls last year.

As the season wears on, Vucevic is putting together some of his better efforts. Earlier this season, it seemed as though Vucevic would have several shots that were right there but rimmed out. Those shots are starting to fall. He’s scoring 19.2 PPG on 50% shooting and 44% three-point shooting.

Especially over the last two games, Vucevic has been balling out. He put up 16 and 15 with two blocks and two steals in a win against the Indiana Pacers and 24 and 17 with four blocks in a victory over the Atlanta Hawks. Against the Hawks, he became the first NBA player in history to have 24 points, 17 rebounds, six assists, four blocks, and four three-pointers in the same game.

Conclusion

These past four games, Nikola Vucevic has been the player the Chicago Bulls need him to be for them to truly be contenders. With DeMar DeRozan and Zach LaVine in MVP contention and mostly having the ball in their hands, it would be unrealistic to think Vucevic should average 23.4 PPG again. However, Vucevic averaging a double-double and hovering around 20 PPG gives the Bulls a three-headed monster with few parallels across the league.

Let’s see if Vooch can continue his recent success.

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Bulls Writer for OnTapSportsNet. Author of Extraordinary Girl, available on Amazon and at other select retailers.

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