Mirotic deal blessing for Bulls

By Khobi Price

The Chicago Bulls saved their season and brightened the outlook of the franchise Thursday by trading forward Nikola Mirotic.

The trade was a great move for the Bulls. It allows them to get back on the path they set for themselves after they traded former guard Jimmy Butler to the Minnesota Timberwolves during the 2017 NBA Draft.

The Bulls sent a 2018 second-round pick and Mirotic to the Pelicans in exchange for center Omer Asik, guard Tony Allen, guard Jameer Nelson and the Pelicans’ 2018 first-round pick.

The first-round pick is protected by the Pelicans, a top-five selection in the 2018 Draft and 1-8 in the 2019 Draft, according to ESPN.

The Bulls are going to keep Asik, Allen and Nelson on the roster for the foreseeable future, and forward Quincy Pondexter has been waived to make roster space for the trade, according to ESPN.

“We’ve decided to make the change and rebuild this roster,” said John Paxson, Bulls Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations, according to a June 23 Bleacher Report. “We’re going to do it with young players we believe can play a system Fred [Hoiberg] is comfortable with.”

Paxson said he knew collecting draft picks and developing young players was going to give the franchise a leg up on their rebuild.

“Nothing has changed for us,” Hoiberg said. “We need to continue to develop our players. Guys are getting opportunities that maybe they weren’t earlier in the season.”

Mirotic’s presence on the roster minimized the Bulls’ chances of being successful in their rebuilding quest. They gave significant playing time to their players, but they proved to be too talented and weren’t losing enough games with Mirotic to fully capitalize off the rebuild.

The Bulls were 14-11 in the 25 games Mirotic appeared and 4-22 in the 26 games he didn’t suit up for this season, according to ESPN. This includes a seven-game win streak and winning 10 out of 12 games from Dec. 8 to Dec. 29, according to ESPN.

The team played like the worst team in the league when Mirotic wasn’t on the court, a league-low -9.9 net rating. However, they dominated games when he was on the court, a 4.3 net rating, which would be the fifth best mark in the league, according to ESPN.

Mirotic’s absence will open more playing opportunities for forward Bobby Portis and center Cristiano Felicio. Rookie forward Lauri Markkanen should see an uptick in scoring chances, as the Bulls can run similar actions for him as they did with Mirotic.

The Bulls can trade Nelson to a contending team in search for a reliable backup point guard. They’ll have an extra first-round pick they can use to select another prospect in the middle of the draft or package with a multitude of players to move up on the draft board.

Mirotic handled the trade with professionalism despite his name being thrown around in trade rumors.

“My name has been [in talks] the last two years,” Mirotic said. “A lot of people were talking about me getting traded,” Mirotic said, according to a Thursday ESPN article. “A lot of people want me to be traded, talking about not [having] consistency. I understand this is all kind of the business.”

Now that the Bulls have moved Mirotic, both parties can move on in a way that is best for them.

“This satisfies what [Mirotic] wanted,” Paxson said, according to a Thursday ESPN article. “More than that, it satisfies what we wanted to get out of it in moving him. Again, it fits our timeline, it fits the direction we’re going.”

The Bulls trading Mirotic decreases their odds of playing in April this year but increases their chances of playing in June in the near future. Transactions that guide the Bulls toward prosperity in the future are the kinds of moves the Bulls need to make going forward.