Chicago Bulls: Looking back at the Nikola Mirotic trade

The Chicago Bulls' Nikola Mirotic (44) waves to fans after a 99-93 win against the Cleveland Cavaliers at the United Center in Chicago on Thursday, March 30, 2017. (Armando L. Sanchez/Chicago Tribune/TNS via Getty Images)
The Chicago Bulls' Nikola Mirotic (44) waves to fans after a 99-93 win against the Cleveland Cavaliers at the United Center in Chicago on Thursday, March 30, 2017. (Armando L. Sanchez/Chicago Tribune/TNS via Getty Images) /

The 2017-18 NBA season was a tough time to be a Chicago Bulls fan. However, the franchise is in a great spot for the future and last season played a huge part in that.

The beginning of the 2017-18 season was anything but easy to watch for Chicago Bulls fans across the world.

Due to a plethora of injuries to key players and a severe lack of depth, the young roster started out with an abysmal 3-20 record.

However, when Nikola Mirotic, Bobby Portis, and Kris Dunn returned, the Bulls managed to rally 7 consecutive wins to boost the morale of Chicago fans. The fanbase as a whole may have been conflicted, as the initial goal was to tank for a lottery pick, but it’s safe to say most fans did enjoy seeing winning basketball for a change.

While multiple factors played a role in this run, there is no denying that Nikola Mirotic was phenomenal and an integral part of the success. Over those 7 games, he averaged an impressive 19.5 points and 7.7 rebounds on an efficient 50.8 percent shooting from the field and an equally impressive 47.3 percent shooting from beyond the arc.

Although he was traded after 25 games to the New Orleans Pelicans, he still averaged career bests of 16.8 points, and 6.4 rebounds during his time in Chicago this past season. While Mirotic was certainly playing well, trading him was the right move for the future of the franchise in the eyes of many.

Why the trade was a great move for the Bulls

Time and time again, Gar Forman and John Paxson have spoken about the importance of building a young core to grow with for the future. Hence, a 27-year-old Nikola Mirotic who has just now found his game and plays the same position as the potential cornerstone of the franchise – Lauri Markkanen – doesn’t bode well for the future.

Neither Markkanen nor Mirotic are currently capable of consistently playing the center position and Mirotic’s trade value was growing by the minute. Furthermore, last season also saw Bobby Portis post career bests as the team’s sixth man. As expected, the frontcourt competition was intense and neither of the three prospects are consistently reliable defenders so it would’ve been hard to mix and match lineups had the Bulls not traded Mirotic.

In addition, Mirotic has historically been seen simply as a stretch big with not much else to show for. While his rebounding and scoring numbers certainly shot up in New Orleans this year, it’s very possible that this is the peak of his potential as a player in this league. While currently effective, he’ll still need a full season to prove that he can consistently perform at this level.

Even if he can, Markkanen and Portis are both posting very similar numbers after limited time in the league and at younger ages. Throw in the fact that the Bulls ended up with a potential draft steal in Chandler Hutchinson in return, and the trade seems like even more of a no-brainer.

How the trade impacted the Pelicans

Throughout the past couple of years, the Pelicans have been notorious for their inability to surround Anthony Davis with talent. While Jrue Holiday, DeMarcus Cousins, and Rajon Rondo are exceptions, the bench unit is generally still undeniably sub-par.

Adding a scorching hot Nikola Mirotic to the mix in exchange for a late first round pick and some fillers was an easy deal to make for New Orleans as well. The 27-year-old forward played his remaining 30 games with the team and averaged an impressive 14.6 points and 8.2 rebounds on 42.7 percent shooting from the field and 33.5 percent shooting from beyond the arc in 29.1 minutes per contest.

Furthermore, he came up big in the playoffs for them and even had a 31 point, 16 rebound performance near the end of the regular season. While Rondo and Cousins may be gone, New Orleans has added the likes of Julius Randle and still retain Jrue Holiday for at least another year. Mirotic will likely be experimented with at the 3 at some point this season and projects to make a big impact for a Pelicans team that needs scorers once again.

Implications for the future

Trading Nikola Mirotic was the right move for the future of the Chicago Bulls franchise. It eliminated a defensively liable frontcourt dilemma and allowed for the Bulls to land another first-round pick.

Markkanen projects to continue growing from here on out and Portis has currently accepted the sixth-man role. Wendell Carter Jr. will look to help fill the defensive void that the current roster has and will be a great fit at the 5.

The Pelicans exceeded their playoff aspirations in 2018 and project to do the same this season despite the loss of Rondo and Cousins. Mirotic will likely be a top 3 scoring option when in the game and is expected to continue his high-level contributions.

Next. Bulls 2018-19 preview: Kris Dunn. dark

Although he certainly had a lot of talent and played his best basketball this past season, it was mutually beneficial for both parties that the Chicago Bulls and Nikola Mirotic parted ways.