The Chicago Bulls are looking to make a playoff push.
In one of the first deals during NBA trade deadline day, the Orlando Magic sent All-Star big man Nikola Vucevic and forward Al-Farouq Aminu to the Chicago Bulls for Otto Porter Jr., Wendell Carter Jr., and a pair of first-round picks, the teams announced on Thursday.
The first round picks heading Orlando’s way will come in the 2021 and 2023 NBA Drafts, sources told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.
“‘Vooch’ will go down as one of the best players to ever wear a Magic uniform and we can’t thank him enough for all the contributions he made to the organization, both on and off the court,” Magic president of basketball operations Jeff Weltman said in a statement.
The new Magic players are unlikely to be ready to go for Orlando’s Friday night matchup with the Portland Trail Blazers—for which they are +11.5 NBA point spread underdogs at -114 NBA odds—so you can expect the Blazers to have a field day against the shorthanded 15-29 Magic.
In less heralded moves for Chicago, they brought in Troy Brown and Mo Wagner from the Washington Wizards for Daniel Gafford and Chandler Hutchinson. They then acquired Daniel Theis and Javonte Green from the Boston Celtics in exchange for Luke Kornet and Wagner, who spent all of a few hours with the Bulls.
Since being traded from the Philadelphia 76ers after his rookie season, Vucevic has done nothing but become a stalwart in Orlando’s frontcourt over the past decade, counting two All-Star selections in 2019 and 2021.
The Bulls’ brass could not be more excited to add a player of Vucevic’s many talents who’s in his prime and serious about winning now.
“He can score, he can score down low or from the three, he’s a facilitator. He’s going to make everybody’s life much easier,” Bulls executive vice president Arturas Karnisovas said.
The USC alumnus has a contract that says he is owed $46 million in the two years after the season, but it would seem that he’s worth every penny.
The Montenegrin seven-footer is having a career year at age 30: through 44 games this season, the Vucevic is putting up career highs in points per game (24.5), three-pointers per game (2.7), three-point shooting (41), free throw shooting (83), and assists (3.8) while also snaring 11.8 rebounds per game, good for fourth in the NBA.
Aminu, who is headed to Chicago along with Vooch, will be playing for his sixth NBA franchise in 11 seasons. The Atlanta native has been putting up 5.5 points and 5.4 rebounds for the Magic in just 17 appearances this season.
While the Bulls are loading up for a playoff run, the Magic have gone into full tank-mode, having also dealt Evan Fournier (Celtics) and Aaron Gordon (Nuggets) on Thursday. They’ve loaded up on picks, but what about the players they acquired in the Vooch deal?
The first of these is big man Carter Jr., who was under a lot of pressure to produce in Chicago after they selected him with the seventh overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft. Carter has really struggled on the offensive end and so was flipped for a big like Vooch with a lot more in his offensive backpack.
The Duke alumnus has been putting up 10.9 points and 7.8 rebounds for Chicago this season and despite his early-career struggles, still offers a very high ceiling at just 21 years of age.
“Wendell is a talented, young player, who is just starting to blossom,” Weltman said. “We are excited not only to add him to our team, but to watch him continue to develop into the player we think he can become. We’re happy to welcome Wendell and Otto to the Magic family.”
Oh yeah, Porter is also joining the Magic, his third team in eight NBA seasons. Another player drafted in the top 10 that never lived up to expectations, Porter has really struggled with injuries over the past three seasons, and whether he has any impact for the Magic remains to be seen.