Bulls

All about Bulls' All-Star center Nikola Vučević

Bulls

Ahead of the 2021 NBA trade deadline, the Chicago Bulls made a splash in acquiring Nikola Vučević from the Orlando Magic.

Vučević, a 30-year-old center who stands 6-foot-11, was a two-time All-Star during his eight-and-a-half season run with the Magic. The Bulls shipped out Wendell Carter Jr., Otto Porter Jr. and top-four protected first-round picks in 2021 and 2023 in exchange for Vučević and Al-Farouq Aminu in the trade.

Here is more on Vučević's NBA career and background:

Nikola Vučević NBA career stats with Bulls, Magic and Sixers

Season Team Min PTS FG% 3PT% FT% REB AST BLK
2011-12 76ers 15.9 5.5 45.0% 37.5% 52.9% 4.8 0.6 0.7
2012-13 Magic 33.2 13.1 51.9% 0.0% 68.3% 11.9 1.9 1.0
2013-14 Magic 31.8 14.2 50.7% N/A 76.6% 11.0 1.8 0.8
2014-15 Magic 34.2 19.3 52.3% 33.3% 75.2% 10.9 2.0 0.7
2015-16 Magic 31.3 18.2 51.0% 22.2% 75.3% 8.9 2.8 1.1
2016-17 Magic 28.8 14.6 46.8% 30.7% 66.9% 10.4 2.8 1.0
2017-18 Magic 29.5 16.5 47.5% 31.4% 81.9% 9.2 3.4 1.1
2018-19 Magic 31.4 20.8 51.8% 36.4% 78.9% 12.0 3.8 1.1
2019-20 Magic 32.2 19.6 47.7% 33.9% 78.4% 10.9 3.6 0.8
2020-21 Magic 34.1 24.5 48.0% 40.6% 82.7% 11.8 3.8 0.6
2020-21 Bulls 32.6 21.5 47.1% 38.8% 87.0% 11.5 3.9 0.8
2020-21 TOT 33.5 23.4 47.7% 40.0% 84.0% 11.7 3.8 0.7

Vučević enjoyed the best season of his career in 2020-21, averaging 23.4 points, 11.7 rebounds and 3.8 assists while shooting 40 percent from 3-point range and making his second All-Star team in three years. In 26 post-trade-deadline games with the Bulls, he averaged 21.5 points, 11.5 rebounds and 3.9 assists, shooting 38.8 percent from 3-point range.

Funny enough, Vučević posted the best scoring total of his career against his new team last season. On Feb. 5, 2021, while still a member of the Magic, Vučević tallied a career-high 43 points, along with 19 rebounds and four assists, in a win over the Bulls. In a Dec. 31, 2012 loss to the Miami Heat, he pulled down his career-high in rebounds with 29.

Nikola Vučević’s injury history throughout his veteran career

Vučević has been durable throughout his NBA career. Since becoming a full-time starter his first year in Orlando, he has appeared in 617 of a possible 719 games (85.8 percent), and hasn't appeared in fewer than 57 games in a season.

 

His worst injury came during the 2017-18 season, when a fractured hand — and subsequent surgery — sidelined him 23 games after colliding with Washington Wizards center Ian Mahinmi during a game.

Story behind Nikola Vučević getting No. 9 jersey from Patrick Williams

Vučević was initially drafted 16th overall in the 2011 draft by the Philadelphia 76ers, and wore the No. 8 in each of the 51 games in which he appeared during his rookie season. But after being dealt to the Magic as part of the expansive Dwight Howard trade, Vučević switched to the No. 9, which he wore for all 591 games he appeared in for Orlando.

The number came to mean a lot to him — so much so that less than an hour after being traded to the Bulls, Vučević reached out to Bulls assistant equipment manager Steve Pankow to see if it was possible to swap jersey numbers with Patrick Williams, who had donned the No. 9 his entire rookie season to that point.

Williams proved to be an easy negotiator. He switched to the No. 44, while Vučević nabbed No. 9.

"Vooch told me that 9 was special to him and he had been wearing it a while. My initial thoughts were he can have it, just give it to him," Williams said.

It took some ribbing by teammates and staffers for Williams to accept payment from Vučević for the swap.

"Steve and the rest of the guys, some of my vets, talked through, like, ‘No, usually you get some money or something for it.’ At that point I was still like, ‘Man, you can just give it to him.' Say welcome to the Chicago Bulls or something like that," Williams said. "But Vooch my first time texting him I said, ‘Do you really want it?’ He said, ‘Yeah.’ He just kind of gave me a price and that was pretty much it."

The amount?

"Undisclosed," Williams said with a smile.

Who is Nikola Vučević's wife?

Vučević married Nikoleta Pavlović, sister of former NBA player Sasha Pavlović, in 2016. Nikola and Nikoleta have two sons, Filip and Matija.

More on Nikola Vučević's college career at USC

Vučević played three seasons at USC, ascending from playing just 11 minutes per game as a freshman to earning All-Pac-12 selections as a sophomore and junior.

Vučević also won Pac 12 Most Improved Player as a sophomore in 2009-10, starting 30 games and averaging 10.7 points, 9.4 rebounds and 1.3 blocks. He had his best season as a junior, averaging 17.1 points, 10.3 rebounds and 1.4 blocks while shooting 34.9 percent from 3-point range — a marked improvement from the 20.5 percent mark he posted across his first two seasons.

His freshman year featured Bulls ties aplenty. The 2008-09 USC Trojans were coached by Tim Floyd, who served as Bulls head coach from 1998-2002. DeMar DeRozan and Taj Gibson were also teammates of Vučević that season before each entered the NBA Draft.

DeRozan has said that Vučević played a significant role in recruiting him to the Bulls, which signed-and-traded for DeRozan in August 2021.

 

More on Nikola Vučević's friendship with Nikola Jokić

In addition to sharing a first name, Vučević and Nikola Jokić headline a recent rush of international players to make waves in the NBA. Vučević was born in Switzerland and primarily raised in Belgium. Jokić is from Sombor, Serbia.

Jokić, who was selected 41st overall by the Denver Nuggets in the 2014 NBA Draft, became the lowest-ever draft pick to win MVP in 2021. While Jokić's averages of 26.4 points, 10.8 rebounds and 8.3 assists, paired with 56.6 percent field-goal and 38.8 percent 3-point shooting, were historic for a center, some doubted his candidacy during the 2020-21 season. But Vučević came to his friend's defense, refuting on Twitter the notion that Jokić would be "the worst [NBA MVP] we've had in 35 years."

Like Jokić, Vučević has evolved into a knockdown 3-point shooter, premier shot-creator and capable passer. Together, they've helped lead a big-man renaissance in the NBA.