The Chicago Bulls are 0-5 since All-Star center Nikola Vucevic joined the team. This has fans in the Windy City worried. The organization took the biggest step forward of any team at the end of the year, acquiring the All-Star in hopes of competing for the playoffs, but has struggled to meet those expectations.

The Bulls are currently 19-28 and barely hanging on to 10th place. Place in the Western Conference. The Raptors and Wizards are not far behind and are looking to take their place in this contest. The Bulls need a turnaround if they want to stay in the playoffs this season.

Although there may be even bigger concerns than this season. The Bulls gave up a lot to get Vucevic and pair him with fellow All-Star Zach LaVine. This was done in part this year, but also with the goal of creating a core group of winners for the future. Given the amount of money invested and the lack of success so far, should Bulls fans give up hope or hold on to their dream of a bright future?

Reasons to be optimistic about bulls

The first major reason to be optimistic about this team is that the sample was far from representative. Throughout the five games, there were injuries, including to their star Zach LaVine, as well as role players. They also played against very good teams in three of those five games, and were competitive in two of them. Their games against the Phoenix Suns and Utah Jazz were very competitive. Zach LaVine also played with some sort of ankle injury that had a big impact on his effectiveness.

The offense was very good when Nikola Vucevic was on the floor. Wooch has an offensive rating of 130.9 in those five games. That’s an incredible number for a center, and it creates a different dynamic for the bullpen offense. His shooting and passing make him deadly in the pick-and-roll, and the Bulls are full of smart cutters he can play with. Thaddeus Young and rookie Patrick Williams are great writers and very good in the room. The gravity that Vucevic creates as a player will really help Zach LaVine as a scorer when he’s healthier.

The team is still trying to find the chemistry. It takes time to learn little things, like how players get to their spots and the best way to get to someone’s shooting pocket. The fact that their offense performed so well while trying to find good chemistry is very encouraging. They’ve also struggled to put pressure on the rim due to LaVine’s injury and when he’s healthy, another aspect of their offense will be unlocked.

Reasons for pessimism

The main reason for this pessimism has to be the record itself and some of the bad losses that have occurred. They lost to a struggling team, the Golden State Warriors, and to the Cleveland Cavaliers, and neither game was particularly competitive. Even the losses against good teams showed some of the weaknesses they will have to deal with.

Defense will be a big problem for the Bulls in the future. Nikola Vucevic is a very poor defensive center, and he has little versatility to compensate for his shortcomings. Teams lived on the edge against Vucevic, which led to players like Patrick Williams and Thad Young rushing to help and opening up three-point shots that were created. It’s a problem that will still exist two years later, as Zach LaVine and Nikola Vucevic are a terrible defensive duo. There are so many holes to exploit against the Bulls, and the defense will be a constant struggle.

The definition of success is important for any NBA team. For many, success is nothing more than a championship fight. The Bulls need to accept that this is not the core to make it happen. They will spend a lot of money on Patrick Williams and Zach LaVine, who continue to improve and become championship-level players. If LaVine doesn’t improve and they rely on a LaVine and Vooch pairing, they won’t be among the best players in the Eastern Conference. The Bulls will likely be a team that will struggle between sixth and tenth in the Eastern Conference for the foreseeable future, and that should be their caliber of success.

Opportunity cost

To build that core of players, the Bulls had to swap the 2021 first round and the 2023 first round. These choices can become very valuable. This year’s draft is full of interesting talent that could really help the Bulls in the future. The 2023 lineup could potentially be dual, meaning that the age limit for candidates could be lowered, meaning that high school students could participate in the lineup. They also had to trade Wendell Carter Jr, a young center who still has potential in both directions.

Some would say that’s a reasonable price for an All-Star, but it’s important to measure that opportunity cost along with what they get in return. If Nikola Vucevic disappoints or if the Bulls never get the success they want, the opportunity cost is high. The Bulls gambled that Vucevic and LaVine would be the real core of the All-Star team, and the opportunity cost was high.

Supplement

In my opinion, the Bulls should be very worried. Not just because of five consecutive defeats, but because of what they gave up to get Vucevic. I said in the article after the swap that the Bulls were big losers at the end of the term because they were going to a team that wasn’t going to compete for a championship. The Bulls have relied on an offensive center who struggles to defend at a high level, and they will have to rely on the offensive development of Patrick Williams and Zach LaVine if they want to reach the first round of the playoffs.

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