Nikola Vucevic has been a key contributor for the Orlando Magic this season, leading them to a 9-9 start. He is averaging 17 points and 13 rebounds in over 30 minutes of play per game while shooting 52% from the floor. His performances have helped him establish himself as an “alpha dog” player in his league that would be difficult to replace on any team.,
During the first quarter of the season, the Chicago Bulls made quite a statement. Chicago’s small-ball lines helped them move to the top of the Eastern Conference rankings, with DeMar DeRozan playing at a high level and Lonzo Ball and Alex Caruso complementing Zach LaVine in the backcourt. Despite the early-season success, worries remained, particularly concerning Nikola Vucevic’s performance.
Given Vucevic’s stretch-5 template, Bulls head coach Billy Donovan’s penchant to play smaller made sense. However, during his first few games, Vucevic did not resemble the All-Star of old, and opponents exploited the Bulls’ lack of size.
The former Orlando Magic star, on the other hand, had a monster performance on Monday that demonstrated Chicago’s entire potential. It also makes the Bulls seem even more dangerous to the rest of the NBA in the future.
Early in his Bulls career, Nikola Vucevic failed to live up to his All-Star hype.
Nikola Vucevic is a true team player. His selfless performance on the court exemplifies this. It’s now audible in his postgame statements. He felt like he was letting a new and better squad down because of his offensive troubles, he said.
November 30, 2021 — K.C. Johnson (@KCJHoop)
The Bulls expected Nikola Vucevic to be a real second star with Zach LaVine when they acquired him from the Orlando Magic before to the trade deadline last season. After all, the experienced big man cost them two first-round selections.
Vooch seemed like a shadow of himself early in the new season, after playing well in 26 games to end the 2020-21 season. He scored roughly 13.4 points per game in his first 14 games, shooting only 40 percent from the floor. A dismal 26.3 percent of the time came from beyond the arc.
Opposing teams often sought to trap Vucevic in pick-and-roll situations and attack him on switches. Despite playing with Chicago’s strongest defensive units much of the time, he was still susceptible in ball-screen situations.
Then there’s the issue of health. Vucevic was diagnosed with COVID-19 in November, which put him back even further. In his absence, the Bulls kept the ball going, but Tony Bradley’s offensive incompetence demonstrated how crucial a healthy and good Vooch is to Chicago.
Indeed, the 31-year-breakthrough old’s effort against the Charlotte Hornets on Monday was a highlight of a big victory for the squad.
In a telling performance, Vucevic overpowered the Hornets.
During Monday’s blowout of the Charlotte Hornets, Vucevic looked more like the player the Bulls believed they were receiving from the Magic in February.
On 12-of-19 shooting from the field, including a perfect 6-of-6 from beyond the arc, the two-time All-Star scored a season-high 30 points. He dove inside the painted area for short midrange twos and showed less trepidation while shooting from a distance.
Vucevic also made a good basketball decision. When the Hornets sent aid via the mail, he saw cutters. He slashed into the center of the lane for easy layups on Caruso many times. Vucevic finished with five assists and 14 rebounds in addition to his scoring total.
The defensive changes, on the other hand, may have been more spectacular. Early on, the Hornets targeted him in pick-and-roll and used switches to confuse him. The Swiss native, on the other hand, improved his hedge placement as the game progressed. He made his defensive presence known by continuously contesting attempts at or around the basket.
Vucevic’s plus-minus rating in the game was a game-high +31, demonstrating his two-way effect. His breakthrough performance has the Bulls looking even more like a legitimate Eastern Conference contender.
With Vucevic participating and productive, the Bulls are a serious contender.
Nikola Vucevic #9 of the Chicago Bulls ties up Miles Bridges #0 of the Charlotte Hornets at United Center on November 29, 2021 in Chicago, Illinois | Getty Images/Jonathan Daniel
Nikola Vucevic has a noticeable influence on his teammates when he scores or shoots from long range.
Against the Hornets, the Bulls set a season best with 133 points. They scored 35 assists while shooting over 60% from the floor and 46.7 percent from beyond the arc. Is it a coincidence that these figures arrived in Vucevic’s most important game of the season?
When Vooch screens for DeRozan or Zach LaVine, a combo that has already established team history with their scoring exploits, opponents are forced to make difficult choices. He has the ability to score or find an open player out of the post. The playmaking, particularly with a transition-heavy player like Lonzo Ball, helps Chicago in the half court and makes everyone on the field more dangerous.
The Bulls must find new methods to keep Vucevic engaged. That, according to Donovan, involves extra post-production tweaks.
“A lot of times he’s trailing into plays because we’ve tried to play quick and run more,” Donovan remarked, according to NBC Sports Chicago. “If there’s one thing he hasn’t had as much of this year as he had last year, it’s post-ups.” They’ve plummeted. And I need to figure out how to get him more of them because he’s a fantastic offensive player.”
Vucevic’s presence on the block may help Chicago’s attack. Vooch finds cutters and can kick when the support defense comes, so it wouldn’t prevent others from touching the ball. As a result, the Bulls are more well-rounded overall.
Chicago had already established themselves as an interesting Eastern Conference playoff candidate. However, Vucevic’s breakthrough performance and the impact it had on the Bulls’ scoring efficiency and variety demonstrate the team’s potential as a legitimate contender in the Eastern Conference.
Basketball Reference provided the statistics.
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