The Bulls dug themselves into a hole by trading their only star in Jimmy Butler in 2017. Chicago hasn’t even sniffed the playoffs since.
Now, the Bulls have two All-Stars and more-formidable postseason odds.
Chicago is trading for Magic center Nikola Vucevic, pairing him with fellow All-Star Zach LaVine.
Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:
Bulls are sending Wendell Carter Jr. and two first-round picks to the Magic, per sources. https://t.co/MNvJ8GmfeL
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) March 25, 2021
Shams Charania of The Athletic:
The Bulls sent Orlando two first-round picks (2021, 2023) — including top-4 protected this year, sources said. It will likely convey to Orlando. https://t.co/Y6P6wCndMM
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) March 25, 2021
That’s a HEFTY price to pay for Vucevic.
Even if the Bulls (19-24, 10th in the East, 3.0 games out of fourth place) make their desired surge, they’ll probably convey a pick in the teens this year. Trading for 30-year-old Vucevic (who’s due $46 million over the next two seasons) also lowers Chicago’s ceiling in future years. That 2023 first-rounder could land fairly high in the draft.
The No. 7 pick in 2018, Wendell Carter Jr. has shown flashes. However, he has struggled to stay healthy.
Presumably, taking Al-Farouq Aminu was part of the Bulls’ cost. He’s 30 and depleted physically and has a $10,183,800 player option for next season.
But Vucevic is a talented and productive center who should fit well (at least offensively). He brings credibility to a team desperately seeking it.
A big question, though: Is this the right time for Chicago to prioritize the present? The answer is in the eye of the beholder. Winning more immediately can be gratifying. There’s also something to patiently building for a larger payoff down the road. Would making merely the play-in satisfy? The Bulls could reach the playoffs, but that’s far from a certainty. Winning a series is even less likely.
The Magic – who faced a similar dilemma for years and often prioritized the present – finally make the wise move to rebuild. This roster has stagnated. Thankfully for Orlando, it wasn’t too late to sell high on Vucevic.
This trade could presage other moves.
The Magic are already trading Evan Fournier to the Celtics. Dealing Aaron Gordon makes even more sense now as Orlando enters a rebuild.
Otto Porter looked valuable in Chicago just two years ago. But he has fallen into a reserve role amid injury issues, leaving him to be included in this deal as matching salary. Porter (who’s on a $28,489,239 expiring contract) won’t do much for the tanking rebuilding Magic this season. Perhaps, Orlando will flip him before this afternoon’s trade deadline. If not, the 27-year-old sweet-shooting forward should hold plenty of appeal if bought out.
In Chicago, Lauri Markkanen is an imperfect fit with Vucevic and has already come up in trade rumors.