Over the past few NBA seasons, only two trades have been more regrettable than the one the Chicago Bulls executed to land Nikola Vucevic.
Or so says Bleacher Report’s Greg Swartz.
It was nearly 18 months ago when Arturas Karnisovas and Marc Eversley used Wendell Carter Jr., Otto Porter Jr., and two lightly protected first-round picks to pluck Vucevic from the Orlando Magic. Of course, the deal hasn’t gone exactly as planned.
Vucevic averaged 21.5 points, 11.5 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 38.8% shooting from deep in his first 26 games with the team. But, he and Zach LaVine played just 15 of those games together.
As a result, the Bulls slid out of post-season contention and the Magic became beneficiaries of the eighth pick in the 2021 NBA Draft, which they used to select eventual All-Rookie forward Franz Wagner.
“While the Magic have Carter, Wagner and a 2023 first coming from Chicago,” Swartz wrote, “the Bulls have an offensive-minded center when they need a rim protector instead.”
Indeed, the level of protection Carter Jr. and Vucevic offer is completely different. One has allowed 57.4% shooting at the rim since the trade and the other is Vucevic, whose defense becomes more worrisome with every snag Lonzo Ball hits in his recovery from his left knee injuries.
And, as Swartz pointed out, Carter Jr. will make $14.2 million this season in the first year of a de-escalating contract. Meanwhile, Vucevic isn’t likely to stray too far from the $22 million he’ll make in the last year of his own deal this season to remain a Bull — no matter what his recent big-ticket purchase might suggest.
But nothing is ever as clear as it is in hindsight.
Plus, who’s to say Karnisovas and Eversley wouldn’t still green light the move that, of any made since the 2019-20 season, looks less regrettable than only the Celtics gifting Desmond Bane to Memphis and the Lakers taking Russell Westbrook off Washington’s hands.
After all, in spite of making just 31.4% of his threes and allowing opponents to shoot 63.8% at the rim, Vucevic still helped the Bulls to their best campaign in seven years last season.
In addition, there is no mention of what the two-time All-Star’s arrival might’ve meant to LaVine at the time.
One thing’s for sure, though, the second-guessing of Karnisovas and Eversley’s highest-staked move to date won’t stop any time soon.