Big Setback for Chicago Bulls as Major Star Set to Miss Multiple Games

Published 11/12/2021, 2:19 AM EST
Mar 31, 2021; Phoenix, Arizona, USA; Chicago Bulls center Nikola Vucevic (9) shoots against the Phoenix Suns during the second half at Phoenix Suns Arena. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports


After a dream start to the season, the Chicago Bulls, dominant run, now faces a setback. According to Shams Charania of The Athletic, Nikola Vucevic, their starting center has entered health and safety protocol after testing positive for coronavirus.

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The Chicago Bulls currently have what could possibly be the best roster they have put together since the Michael Jordan era. However, without a dominant center for the near foreseeable future, will the Bulls be able to maintain their consistency? Let’s try to understand how the Bulls might replace Vucevic in the short run.

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Bulls without Nikola Vucevic? How will they replace him?

Since Nikola Vucevic is out for the near future of the Chicago Bulls, here’s how they could replace him. While the Chicago Bulls have conventional backup centers in Tony Bradley and Marko Simonovic, they could also opt for some unconventional approaches.

Apr 9, 2021; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; Chicago Bulls guard Zach LaVine (8) shoots against the Atlanta Hawks in the first quarter at State Farm Arena. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Like Small Ball, wherein the likes of Patrick Williams or Alize Johnson take up the role of the center even though they are just 6 feet 7 to 8 inches tall. For a league dominantly run by centers who are near the 7 ft mark, here’s how Small Ball might work.

Let’s take an analogy from the Houston Rockets. While the approach might not have led to championships in the long run, considering that this is a short-term arrangement till Vucevic returns, it could be useful to the Bulls.

The Bulls coaching team is obviously looking to maximize DeMar DeRozan’s exceptional run of form combined with the reliable consistency of Zach Lavine. After years of experimenting backcourt duos with Lavine, looks like the Bulls have found the right pairing with DeRozan.

What does this mean for the Chicago Bulls?

In a small ball style of play generally, two things happen.

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First, the Bulls would reduce posting up because of the clear size disadvantage which would force relatively slower centers to the perimeter. With athletic forwards like Patrick Williams, this could be used to their advantage. The threat of 3-point shooting will draw him out, leaving open lanes for other players to exploit. And Williams is also a brilliant defender.

Second, the major playmaking and scoring will continue being handled by the guards. When the Rockets used this strategy in 2019, James Harden ended the season with career-high numbers in scoring.

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While DeRozan and Lavine are no James Harden, could they reproduce something as special as he did? Let us know what you think.

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Chaitanya Dadhwal

374 articles

Chaitanya Dadhwal is an NBA writer at EssentiallySports. Even though his journalism is driven by his desire to understand both sides of an argument and give a neutral perspective, he is biased towards Houston Rockets and Arsenal, and he has shown exactly how loyal he can be through tough times. Currently a Law student at Jindal Global Law School, he aims to have his own sports management firm one day and enjoys rap music during his time off.

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