The Bulls made a big splash on Thursday’s trade deadline, adding Nikola Vucevic, Al-Farouq Aminu, Daniel Theis, Troy Brown Jr., and Javonte Green to their roster.
I was pretty happy with the moves that the Bulls made as a whole. You’ve probably seen the nuts and bolts of each of these trades, so let’s get straight to some player evaluation.
I liked this trade for the Bulls. The 2021 and 2023 top-four protected picks are tough to lose, but there is an extremely high likelihood that they end up in the middle of the first round when they convey. The Bulls were also able to protect themselves from worst-case scenario where they jumped up in the draft lottery, which is a huge value-add on their side.
Vucevic is worth that price. He’s a killer high-volume 3-point shooter. He has managed to shoot 40.6 percent on his 6.5 attempts from deep per game despite barely taking any from the closer-in corners. He’s also a fantastic passer and should slot right into the system that Billy Donovan has installed. And he is a solid post-up threat, which can provide the team with some more varied shot creation down the stretch of games.
The fit is also pretty great offensively. Vucevic has been paired with a slew of terrible point guards in Orlando. He should get even better on the Bulls playing alongside LaVine.
LaVine has been one of the most blitzed players in the league, mostly because the Bulls didn’t have a good release valve for when teams sent two defenders at him. That has changed a bit with the renaissance in Thad Young’s play, but Vucevic is a super-charged version of what the Bulls can do with Young.
If teams bring two to LaVine, Vucevic can easily pop out for 3. The Bulls are going to run the hell out of LaVine-Vucevic pick-and-pops, and it’s going to be a nightmare to guard. They are both among the league leaders in above-the-break 3’s, so they are going to let it fly.
Vucevic is also great in the short roll and can make the extra pass to find open teammates.
The defensive side of the ball is more of a mixed bag.
Vucevic played mostly drop coverage with the Magic, so the learning curve shouldn’t be too steep for him in Chicago. He’s an adequate scheme defender and is known as a good communicator, but he lacks the physical tools to be a big positive impact. He’s a mediocre rim protector, and the minutes he plays alongside Lauri Markkanen have the potential to be very ugly.
Vucevic does have some limited ability to play other types of schemes. The Magic had him guard at the level of the screen from time to time, but he doesn’t have the greatest footspeed and can look bad when guarding in space.
Fortunately, the Bulls have some nice complementary pieces to mask any of Vucevic’s defensive deficiencies if they continue to ride their veteran players.
After starting the year horrifically on that end of the floor, the Bulls have been solidly in the top 10 over the last two months and top four since moving Coby White and Wendell Carter out of the starting lineup. They have the smart team defenders to make this work.
Aminu was once a nice role player, but injuries have derailed his career. At this point, he should be considered bad salary at the end of the bench until proven otherwise.
If he does get back to decent health, he is a good multipositional defender, plus rebounder, and a limited offensive player.
Theis is a solid role player who can do a little bit of everything. He’s a great screener, particularly down low when guards are already driving downhill into the paint. He’s also a decent passer and shooter.
Theis has good value on the defensive end. He offers some toughness, switchability, and smart help defense.
This was a good pickup from the Bulls strictly from a value proposition. The Boston Celtics got rid of Theis to avoid the luxury tax, and the Bulls found themselves in the right place at the right time to take advantage. Theis isn’t a game-changer, but he will be a positive contributor.
Troy Brown Jr.
TBJ is a great buy-low candidate that looked like he was getting squeezed out due to factors outside of his control. He had a nice sophomore season and looked like he was breaking out in last year’s bubble but was buried this year by coach Scott Brooks.
Brown showed some nice flashes as a passer in the bubble.
He also has great positional size, and he is a good team defender.
Brown’s career .43/.33/.75 shooting splits are nothing to write home about, but he hasn’t really gotten a great opportunity for those numbers to be too meaningful. He’s an interesting prospect that probably should have been playing more in Washington and will get to show what he can do now with the Bulls.
Green was an end of the roster guy for the Celtics for the past two seasons. He’s a good athlete who can get up for some dunks. I wouldn’t expect him to play much, but he can provide some energy off the bench.