It’s been another season in Chicago where Nikola Mirotic has found his name in the middle of trade rumors. However, a trade involving the Bulls forward this season seems more likely to happen than it has in years past. Despite playing some of the best basketball of his career, Mirotic has been vocal about his unhappiness in Chicago. He’s currently averaging 17.4 points per game and 7.0 rebounds per game while shooting 48 percent from the field and 46 percent from behind the three point line.
The source of Mirotic’s unhappiness comes from an incident in practice involving teammate Bobby Portis. A fight broke out between both players that caused Mirotic to miss the first 23 games of the regular season due to a concussion and facial fracture.
As Mirotic was recovering from the incident, he contemplated leaving the NBA and going back to playing professionally over seas. He also stayed away from the Bulls facilities and would not speak to any members of the team. Eventually, Mirotic started speaking with teammates and front office members of the Bulls as he was nearing his return to the court and made it known that he would like to be traded.
On Monday, January 15, his wish can be granted as that is the day the Bulls can officially trade Nikola Mirotic. I don’t think the Bulls will be “trigger happy” and trade him immediately that day, but that will be a time when they start to get involved in deeper talks with teams expressing interest. Mirotic has a no-trade clause as a part of his contract, but I don’t think he will turn down a trade to any team that wants to land him. A couple of teams have already expressed interest in the sharp-shooting big man, so lets take a look at what the Bulls could get in return.
The Pistons currently have a record of 22-18 and are in second place in the Central Division. As they push for playoff contention in the second half of the season, they have expressed that they are looking to add some offensive weapons to their team. Mirotic could be a great piece to provide the offensive spark they are looking for. He would be coming off the bench behind Tobias Harris and would provide a lot of depth at the power forward position.
Aside from depth, Mirotic would be able to play a lot of minutes from the bench and provide consistent scoring for the Pistons when their starters are off the court. One thing all playoff teams have in common is consistent bench play. Adding someone like Mirotic could give the Pistons that extra push they need to make the playoffs and to compete with teams in a series.
One player to keep an eye on as a return piece in a trade with the Pistons is Stanley Johnson. Johnson was a highly regarded prospect out of the University of Arizona when he entered the draft in 2015. He fits the mold of a hard-nosed defensive player that teams like the Bulls love. However, his offensive game needs a lot of work. Johnson had a decent rookie campaign, averaging 8.1 points per game, 4.2 rebounds per game, and 1.6 assists per game, but his numbers have regressed over the past few seasons.
Bringing in a player like Johnson is a little bit of a risk for the Bulls, but providing him with a fresh start and an opportunity to see a lot of minutes on the court could be beneficial in the end. The Pistons would have to add another piece or two if they want to get this deal done. I believe that the Bulls will not consider a Mirotic trade unless there is a first round draft pick involved, specifically a pick for this upcoming NBA draft. Also, the Bulls have said that they will take on expiring contracts in a trade, which leads me to believe that another “throw in” player would be added to a deal with the Pistons. Could tonight’s game against the Pistons be a showcase for Nikola Mirotic? Only time will tell.
The Utah Jazz are currently 17-25 and are just outside of the playoff picture, sitting at the tenth spot in the Western Conference. The Jazz have been very vocal about their interest in Mirotic and they seem like the team that is most ready to offer a trade. One player that they are looking to move as a trade piece is power forward/center, Derrick Favors.
Favors has had a bit of an up-and-down NBA career playing for both the Nets and the Jazz. He’s currently averaging 12.3 points per game, 6.8 rebounds per game, and 1.0 blocks per game. His numbers are slightly down from previous seasons, but there is some extra pressure on him this year as he has to fill in for Utah’s injured star, Rudy Gobert.
Derrick Favors has had some knee issues throughout his career, but he provides good defense and scoring at a high volume on offense. This season, his field goal percentage is currently 55 percent, and he has a career field goal percentage of 51 percent. Bringing in a player like him who has been in the NBA for going on eight seasons, has experienced ups-and-downs, and someone who has multiple years of playoff experience could be a good addition to the Bulls’ young core.
Just like the potential Pistons trade, the Jazz will have to include a first round draft pick if they want to add Nikola Mirotic. Also, the Jazz have said they wouldn’t mind including Joe Johnson in a trade this year. Joe Johnson would be another player who can bring veteran leadership to the Bulls. However, if the Bulls wanted to acquire both of those players and a draft pick, then I believe the Bulls would have to include another player in this deal. Paul Zipser and Jerian Grant could potentially be the other player added to this deal to get it done.
If Joe Johnson is not included in a trade involving Mirotic, then Alec Burks would be another player to keep an eye on. Burks is a lengthy shooting guard that has found himself in-and-out of a main role with the Jazz. If the trade proposed involved Favors, Burks, and a first round draft pick, then the Bulls most likely will be able to complete that trade by only sending over Mirotic.
These are the two teams that I’ve heard have the most interest in Mirotic right now. As I mentioned before, he can officially be traded as of Monday, January 15. I expect that there will be a few more teams that express interest around that date or in the upcoming weeks. The main piece the Bulls want in return is a first round draft pick. This upcoming NBA draft is loaded with talent, so there’s a good chance the Bulls can add someone of Mirotic’s caliber or better with that draft pick. Aside from the draft pick, look for them to receive a player with an expiring contract and/or youth to add to their already young core.