Bulls Rumors: Nikola Vucevic Expects to Stay With Chicago Amid Rudy Gobert Trade Buzz

Tim Daniels@@TimDanielsBRFeatured Columnist IVJune 11, 2022

Basketball: Utah Jazz Rudy Gobert (27) 
in action, defense vs Chicago Bulls  Nikola Vucevic (9) at Vivint Arena.
Salt Lake City, UT 4/2/2021
CREDIT: Nils Nilsen (Photo by Nils Nilsen/Sports Illustrated via Getty Images) (Set Number: X163569)
Set Number: X163569

Chicago Bulls center Nikola Vucevic reportedly expects to remain with the team despite a series of rumors linking Utah Jazz star Rudy Gobert with a potential move to the Windy City.

K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago provided an update on the Gobert speculation Friday on the Bulls Talk Podcast (via Elias Schuster of Bleacher Nation):

"I, personally, have not put a lot of stock into these rumors. ... There is a lot of noise out there. It's certainly fair to speculate what the Jazz might do. Before, I personally made a couple of calls on the topic, and I was told that there's not much going on right now. Things can obviously change in this league—always change in this league. I can also tell you, from my understanding, Nikola Vucevic is under the impression he's going to be here."

Kevin O'Connor of The Ringer reported Monday the Bulls are a "team with interest" if the Jazz decide move on from Gobert following the departure of head coach Quin Snyder.

Bleacher Report's Jake Fischer added further details Tuesday, noting league sources indicated a baseline package of Vucevic and Patrick Williams for Gobert was a possibility, though it's unclear whether if Chicago is willing to part with Williams.

The Bulls enjoyed a turnaround season in 2021-22, compiling a 46-36 record to snap a four-year playoff drought. They struggled defensively, however, ranking tied for 23rd in defensive efficiency during the regular season.

So securing an upgrade in the post from Vucevic to Gobert, a three-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year, is an attractive option on paper.

Several variables are in play, though. Most notably, the Jazz have yet to signal they're ready to break up their core duo of Gobert and Donovan Mitchell despite a first-round playoff exit that continued a recent trend of strong regular-season results followed by a postseason dud.

Utah general manager Justin Zanik was noncommittal about the team's offseason plans after Snyder stepped down on Sunday.

"Donovan and Rudy, along with some of our other players, are hugely important to the success of this organization," Zanik told reporters.

Meanwhile, the Bulls would have to decide whether the improvement from Vucevic (No. 117 in FiveThirtyEight's NBA WAR ranking) to Gobert (No. 8) is enough to warrant giving up on Williams, the fourth overall pick in the 2020 draft.

Williams has yet to emerge as the type of high-end contributor a team expects from a top-five selection, averaging 9.2 points and 4.5 rebounds in 88 games, but he was limited to just 17 appearances in 2021-22 because of a wrist injury.

The 20-year-old Florida State product showed some promise in the limited action this season, shooting 52.9 percent from the field, including 51.7 percent on threes.

Trading Williams at this stage of his career would come with risk, but Chicago will face plenty of competition on the trade market if Gobert becomes available, so it's going to take valuable assets to complete a deal one way or another.