The Orlando Magic traded Nikola Vucevic to the Chicago Bulls, which gives them an All-Star duo alongside elite offensive threat Zach LaVine.
Last month, we wrote about why Vucevic is one of the most underrated players in the NBA. With him now in the mix, if you think you think you have seen year-over-year improvements from LaVine so far, wait until you see the way his game can develop playing with a star big man.
But before we get into that, first, let’s take a step back and look at what the former UCLA guard has already done with the ball in his hands this year.
When including passes, per Synergy, LaVine has finished 57.8 percent of his possessions as the primary ball-handler on pick and rolls. In fact, thus far, the only players who have completed more ball screens are just Damian Lillard, Trae Young and Luka Doncic.
While he is a ball-dominant player, he is also more than willing to create for others out of the pick-and-roll and the guard has proven that he is more than capable as a playmaker on these looks.
I've been trying to speak this deal into existence for months. Pick-and-pop, pick-and-roll, have fun guarding Zach and the Vuc. The perfect piece to LaVine's game!
— Joe Cowley (@JCowleyHoops) March 25, 2021
LaVine has recorded the fourth-most total passes to the roll man on these actions, trailing the same three players mentioned above. The Sacramento Kings are the only team who have finished possessions through the roll man more often than the Bulls have in 2020-21.
Chicago, however, has not been very good at finishing these opportunities. As a team, they have averaged 1.02 points per possession, which ranks as the third-worst in the NBA.
Wendell Carter Jr., who was just traded from the Bulls to the Magic, put up just 0.94 points per possession as the roll man in the PnR. That ranked as the fourth-worst among all players who have finished 50 possessions or more on this play type thus far.
That means that opposing defenses could blitz LaVine at the point of attack, playing him tight and praying he passes to out the roller, because they did not have to worry about his screener as a scorer.
Nikola Vucevic leads the NBA in pick and pop scoring by a wide margin. He has shot an eFG% of 55% in catch and shoot situations, 61% finishing around around the rim, and 49% going one-on-one in the post this season.
— Synergy Basketball (@SynergySST) March 25, 2021
Meanwhile, for the second year in a row, the former Orlando big man is the league’s leader in total scoring out of the pick-and-pop.
That means that more of the passes that LaVine records will turn into assists, which is good news. But it also means that teams guarding the Bulls will not have the luxury of sagging off Carter and lasering in on him, which may give him easier offensive possessions as well.
Vucevic, similarly, will now play alongside the best pick-and-roll partner he has ever had. Together, so once they develop their chemistry, this can be one of the more feared offensive tandems in the Eastern Conference.