2021-22 Fantasy Basketball: Nikola Vucevic

by Michael Gorman
2021 Fantasy Basketball Nikola Vucevic

In his worst statistical season since the 2017-18 campaign, Nikola Vucevic has dramatically disappointed fans and Fantasy Basketball managers this season.

Vucevic has taken significant steps backward in points, field goal percentage and free throw percentage. It has knocked him down from the top-25 player he was recently down to his current Basketball Monster rank in the mid-50s.

Moving from the perennially depleted Orlando Magic to the crowded Chicago Bulls is forcing him to adjust his game. And it’s not going well. His shot attempts are down across the board. But he hasn’t been able to keep his percentages afloat, so it’s been only bad news this season.

The Chicago Bulls are 19-10 and currently the number two team in the Eastern Conference. Despite their recent battles with COVID and the health and safety protocols, the Bulls are 7-3 in their last 10 games played.

Chicago is easily one of the best teams in the East, on paper. Should Vucevic be able to solve whatever is going wrong for him, the Bulls have a real shot at playing in the Eastern Conference Finals and potentially the NBA Finals.

2021-22 Fantasy Basketball: Nikola Vucevic

What happened to Nikola Vucevic?

This is the first season since his 2013-14 campaign that he’ll spend a whole season outside of first on his team in terms of usage rate. He’s ranked third on the Bulls right now. Wings DeMar DeRozan and Zach LaVine are handling the team’s main offensive responsibilities.

But less defensive pressure on the big man hasn’t helped him with his shot at all. If extrapolated to an entire season, his 40.9% mark from the field would be the lowest of his career.

He’s had a couple of strong games in a row, scoring 19 points against the Lakers and Rockets on consecutive nights. But he needs to do way more to re-establish himself as an All-Star caliber player.

Interestingly, despite lower shots attempts across the board, his shot distribution isn’t much different from prior years. About 68% of his shots are coming from two-point range and about 31% are coming from three.

He’s shooting marginally more between three and 10 feet and marginally less between 10 and 16 feet.

After scouring his basketball reference and nba.com stats pages, it’s hard to find any reason to think he’s doing poorly other than that it’s a pure shooting slump. From the 2014-15 season to last season, his usage rate averaged 26.8, and this season, it’s 23.5.

In my opinion, the biggest sign that points to this season being an aberration is his reduced FT%. Vucevic losing his touch from the stripe is not common. And it potentially shows that his sub-par performances this year have more to do with getting used to not having the ball in his hands quite as much, rather than the idea that he’s being used poorly by head coach Billy Donovan.

What to do with Vucevic?

At this point, unless you’re going to accept a buy-low offer for the two-time All-Star, you just have to hold on and hope he turns things around.

While Vucevic has been worse than expected, the rest of the Bulls squad is playing well enough that he can take his time with adjustments as he works back to normal.

Check out more Fantasy Basketball content and know that we’re providing strong advice. My articles on Gary Trent Jr., Terry Rozier, and  Jaren Jackson Jr. are looking particularly clairvoyant these days.

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