Fellow Central Division rival Chicago Bulls have acquired Orlando Magic All-Star center Nikola Vucevic in exchange for Wendell Carter Jr., Otto Porter and two first-round picks, a person familiar with the deal told USA TODAY Sports on Thursday.
The person requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly until the deal is official.
Chicago also acquired Al-Farouq Aminu in the deal but had to send Orlando a top-protected first-round pick in 2021 and a 2023-first round pick.
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The 19-24 Bulls are in 10th place in the East but improved over last season with first-year coach Billy Donovan, first-time All-Star Zach LaVine and new vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas. Chicago is in position to make the play-in game scenario, and it is also just 2½ games behind the New York Knicks and Miami Heat for fifth place in the East.
The Bulls are trying to accelerate their rebuild and acquiring Vucevic gives them a two-time All-Star (2019, 2021) who is averaging 24.5 points, 11.8 rebounds, 3.8 assists and is shooting 48% from the field and 40.6% on 3-pointers this season.
It’s clear Chicago wants to make the playoffs this season.
To get the deal done, Chicago had to part ways with Carter, the No. 7 pick out of Duke in the 2018 draft. Carter has been slowed by injuries, but he turns 22 in April and fits with Orlando’s rebuild. Porter is in the final year of a four-year contract and becomes a free agent after this season.
The deal marks a shift in direction for the Magic who had been interested in making the playoffs rather than a rebuild. Right after Orlando got a deal done with Chicago, it traded Evan Fournier to Boston for two second-round picks.
The dismantling continued before the 3 p.m. deadline when the Magic reportedly dealt forwards Aaron Gordon and Gary Clark to Denver for a 2025 protected first-round pick, rookie guard RJ Hampton and guard Gary Harris.
Unloading Vucevic, Fournier and Gordon indicates Orlando’s front office, led by Jeff Weltman and John Hammond, are planning a rebuild.
Orlando, which snuck into the playoffs as the eighth seed last season, is 15-29 and in second-to-last place in the East.