The New Orleans Pelicans and Chicago Bulls have agreed on a trade for forward Nikola Mirotic, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. The Pelicans agreed to guarantee the final year of Mirotic’s contract, worth $12.5 million in the 2018-19 season, in exchange for sending Omer Asik, Tony Allen, Jameer Nelson and a future first-round pick to the Bulls. The pick is protected No. 1-5 in 2018 and gradually loosens up over time, according to TNT’s David Aldridge.
New Orleans also receives a future second-round pick in the deal, and the Bulls are expected to waive both Allen and Nelson.
New Orleans is planning to guarantee the $12.5M salary of Mirotic in the 2018-19 season, league sources tell ESPN. That clinched a deal. Omer Asik and a future first-rounder part of package to Bulls, league source tells ESPN.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) February 1, 2018
Chicago and New Orleans had discussed a Mirotic trade earlier, but the deal stalled initially because the Bulls didn’t pick up the team option on the last year of his contract. And because of a clause Mirotic fought for in contract negotiations, he had the power to veto any trade made in the first year of his contract.
Mirotic is in the midst of a career season, despite starting the year with an ugly incident where Bobby Portis punched him and broke bones in Mirotic’s face. Since returning from that injury in December, Mirotic has averaged nearly 17 points and more than six rebounds per game while recording an incredible 62.4 percent True Shooting Percentage.
Why this makes sense for the Pelicans
New Orleans lost DeMarcus Cousins for the year with a torn Achilles tendon, which sucks on many different levels. Still, after missing the playoffs the past two seasons, the Pelicans viewed themselves as buyers at this trade deadline despite the injury setback.
Mirotic can help “replace” Cousins as a stretch big man, though he clearly lacks many of the qualities that make Cousins such a special player. Still, New Orleans is in a bind and this is potentially the best-case scenario for salvaging their season. A strong playoff push would hopefully drop the positioning of the outgoing first-round pick and make its absence more manageable.
Beyond the pick, it would be a relief to dump Omer Asik’s dead-weight salary, which will pay him about $22 million over the next two seasons. That would be especially great headed into this complicated New Orleans offseason, but whether that can happen remains to be seen.
Why this makes sense for the Bulls
Mirotic might finally be reaching his potential, but he turns 27 in February and doesn’t fit the Bulls’ rebuilding timeline. His presence hurts Chicago’s attempts to tank, and his lingering beef with Portis surely didn’t help promote a healthy locker room culture.
It has always seemed clear that the Bulls will deal Mirotic before the Feb. 8 trade deadline, and that gave teams negotiating with Chicago the upper hand. As such, a first-round pick would be an acceptable payout for Mirotic. (Though that partly depends on pick protections.) Chicago fans might balk at the reported haul, but it’s just hard to make trades in situations like this. And that’s not even counting Mirotic potentially vetoing this deal.
Bringing back Asik would be a homecoming, too, although it’s unlikely he would play much, if at all.