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Nikola Vucevic can be the key that unlocks the Bulls offense

spacing and passing

Charlotte Hornets v Chicago Bulls Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

These are small samples, of course, but it’s likely causal that once Nikola Vucevic started hitting shots, like he did against the Hornets on Monday, the Bulls offense suddenly looks a lot better than what they had shown the past few games.

(It’s also likely that playing a bad defensive team in Charlotte, which didn’t have their starting center, also helped)

Vuc had a breakout game with 30 points going 12-19 from the field and a perfect 6-6 from three.

(hey, we used the same photo!)

You can see with the threes and several face-up long twos that Vuc was providing great spacing and a pick-and-pop option that has been there all season but were instead resulting in misses.

But another contribution was Vuc showing that he is not just a mere stretch-5 (for one, he is a great defensive rebounder) but can playmake. Vucevic had five assists on the night.

I was watching the League Pass commentary with Nate Duncan and John Hollinger (and not missing Stacey ‘give a guttural oooooh then catchphrase after every make’ King), and they were remarking how it was weird that Charlotte was double-teaming Vuc given that he had not made a single basket from a post-up position. Kelly Oubre is doing a real dumb move here, but that is not to diminish Vuc as he has the skills to capitalize.

And then there’s this decision by Terry Rozier.

Even when not getting an assist, the threat of Vucevic is enough to send the defense (Charlotte defense, anyway) scrambling.

It’s just one game, and due to missed time Vuc has had only a dozen bad ones. Not enough to write off his Bulls career already, but I heard something from Rick Camp that stuck with me: when the Bulls acquired DeMar DeRozan and there were concerns about fit, it wasn’t necessarily that DeRozan himself wouldn’t fit but that someone would have their role reduced and need to personally accommodate that change.

That role change imposition has clearly been on Vucevic. But their last win showed that he can still get opportunities and contribute a lot. Maybe not enough to get an All-Star selection anymore, but enough to make his team’s offense a lot more dangerous.