NBA In-Season Trade Analysis: Nikola Mirotic to the Pelicans
The Bulls traded Nikola Mirotic to the New Orleans Pelicans for Jameer Nelson, Tony Allen, Omer Asik and a first-round pick and Justin Fensterman has the fantasy basketball breakdown.
The end of the Bulls and combo forward Nikola Mirotic’s relationship began before the season when Mirotic and teammate Bobby Portis got into a fight and Mirotic was left with facial injuries that kept him out for the beginning of the season. It was a “Me or Him” type of situation and Mirotic forced the Bulls to choose. Mirotic was coming off of a season in which it seemed like he was losing steam. He didn’t look right on the court and all signs were point to him fading away as the years continued. His scoring was very inconsistent. The Bulls couldn’t find a taker for Mirotic as he was continuing to recover from broken bones in his Face.
Once Mirotic was activated, he was a different player. He was the Mirotic of old who hit open jumpers and found ways to attack the rim from different angles. Both Mirotic and rookie Lauri Markkanen were able to be productive. Mirotic raised his scoring average by six points and even raised his rebounding numbers. The Bulls hadn’t given up looking for a suitor and the Pelicans became in need of another big man after losing DeMarcus Cousins for the rest of the season.
The Bulls traded Mirotic for Jameer Nelson, Tony Allen and Omer Asik along with a 2018 first round pick. It’s unlikely that all three of the players won’t be heavily involved in the future of the Bulls. Injuries will have to occur for any of these guys to get a true rotation commitment. Luckily for Jameer Nelson, because Kris Dunn is dealing with Concussion symptoms, Nelson could be seeing playing time until Dunn recovers. With Mirotic off the team, Bobby Portis and Denzel Valentine should see more playing time. Markkanen will spend most of his time playing at the Power Forward spot and Robin Lopez will still control most of the Center minutes. Portis can rotate to both PF and C and he should be seeing consistent minutes and will help with scoring, rebounding and steals.
For the Pelicans, Mirotic will fit like a glove. Anthony Davis will move to the Center spot and Mirotic will be an excellent complimentary piece. Mirotic will hit long-range jumpers and because Anthony Davis requires a ton of attention inside, he’ll see open spots in the paint. Expect his stats to stay similar, especially on the scoring front because he’ll have room to create from the elbow. Expect to see more jumpers from the elbow because he’ll set the high screen for Jrue Holiday and if Holiday doesn’t see success in attacking on the possession, he’ll hit either Darius Miller as a bailout option, or he’ll find an open Mirotic at the elbow. As long as Davis is on the court, he’ll require double-teams at all times. Mirotic should be able to grab a lot of long rebounds being that Davis will position himself on the low block as soon as the shot goes up.
While Mirotic is a good offensive addition, he doesn’t command the ball as much as DeMarcus Cousins and more players such as Jrue Holiday, E’Twaun Moore and Darius Miller will continue to benefit by getting more time with the ball. Mirotic will still be heavily involved in the offense, but these other options will also see more shots. Dante Cunningham’s role is going to stay the same. Mirotic owners should hope he frequently rolls to the basket because when Davis is doubled on the other side of the paint, Mirotic will have an easier time cutting to the basket. As much as Mirotic has seen success from the arc, the Pelicans (like the Bulls) have a ton of options that can shoot from the arc and Mirotic will need to be more of an aggressor down low. He’ll get a lot of cheap boards playing on the opposite side of Davis.
The good thing about this trade is that it doesn’t impact all meaningful options on either team negatively. The Pelicans have a need at Forward and Mirotic fits the scheme. The Bulls had a surplus of Forwards and this move allows them to see what they have in Bobby Portis. Mirotic owners shouldn’t worry about his numbers dropping because playing alongside Anthony Davis will take the defensive pressure off of him and he doesn’t even need a ton of playing time to be productive. For the Bulls, Mirotic didn’t even play 25 minutes per game and he still has been one of the 50 best players in fantasy basketball this season. Mirotic makes his debut for the Pelicans on Saturday.