Bulls land All-Star center Nikola Vucevic from Magic for Wendell Carter Jr.

It took a lot, but the Bulls eventually found common ground with Orlando, also sending Otto Porter Jr. and multiple first-round picks. Then the Bulls made deals with the Wizards and Celtics, as Arturas Karnisovas changed the culture in one day.

SHARE Bulls land All-Star center Nikola Vucevic from Magic for Wendell Carter Jr.
The Bulls acquired center Nikola Vucevic from Orlando before Thursday’s trade deadline.

The Bulls acquired center Nikola Vucevic from Orlando before Thursday’s trade deadline.

Phelan M. Ebenhack/AP

There’s impressing your future bosses, and then there’s what Nikola Vucevic did to the Bulls on Feb. 5 when he was still a member of the Magic.

The 30-year-old All-Star center overwhelmed everyone and everything Bulls coach Billy Donovan threw at him that night, finishing with 43 points, 19 rebounds and — oh, by the way — four three-pointers.

It obviously left an impression.

Hours before the NBA trade deadline Thursday, the Bulls and Magic finally found common ground as Vucevic and Al-Farouq Aminu were sent to the Bulls in a package that included 2018 first-round pick Wendell Carter Jr., Otto Porter Jr. and first-round picks in 2021 and 2023.

According to a source, both those picks were top-four protected, but Arturas Karnisovas, the Bulls’ executive vice president of basketball operations, would not confirm that.

The dealing didn’t end there, however, as Karnisovas then pulled off a three-way trade that sent Chandler Hutchison and Daniel Gafford to Washington and Luke Kornet to Boston. The Bulls got Troy Brown Jr. from the Wizards and big man Daniel Theis and guard Javonte Green from the Celtics.

The Bulls’ look instantly changes with 29 games left. And there’s a culture shift of seismic proportions.

“Obviously, we want Chicago to be an attractive destination for free agents,” Karnisovas said. “But, you know, for us, as we evaluate it, we had a sample size of more than 40 games, and we made a couple of decisions to select certain guys [who] can win games because we’re serious here about winning, we’re serious about the culture of being very competitive, and any opportunity we get to make this team better, we will.”

Theis and Brown add defensive toughness — Theis in the paint and Brown on the perimeter. Aminu adds versatility at forward, plus playoff experience, while Green is a developmental project with some real upside. 

But make no mistake: Vucevic is the headliner. The Bulls are adding a true big to a lineup that was often engulfed by opposing centers. Vucevic is also an offensive piece who should work well with first-time All-Star guard Zach LaVine. He works well in pick-and-roll and pick-and-pop, can stretch the floor, and in doing so should open up the paint for LaVine and rookie Patrick Williams.

“Usually, you don’t get too many chances at All-Star-level players, and we were fortunate to get it done,” Karnisovas said. “We have Zach now as an All-Star, Nikola as an All-Star. . . . We took a chance [Thursday].

“It’s easy to add Nikola to the way we play because we put in an offense that is free-flowing, and there’s a lot of ball movement and decision-making. He can score. He can score low. He can score from three. He’s a facilitator. I think one of the best things that he can do is he can facilitate shots for others as well, besides the fact that he’s a 25-and-12 player.

“It’s not eliminating a need for guards constantly facilitating for bigs. Here in this situation, the big can facilitate shots and create offense for others as well. [Vucevic] is going to make everybody’s life much easier.”

Starting with Karnisovas’.

Vucevic has a favorable contract that actually goes down in price from $26 million this season to $24 million, and then to $22 million in 2022-23, which sends a message league-wide.

“We’re not done,” Karnisovas added. “We’re going to keep improving our quality of play. And then keep adding pieces to what this team is going to look like in the future.”

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