The Chicago Bulls have impressed since Nikola Mirotic returned from injury after an altercation with a teammate. But how long will it last?
Joe Cowley reported that Mirotic may be on his way out of Chicago around the return of Zach LaVine (via Chicago Sun-Times):
“Mirotic and his representatives are standing firm on his trade request and that he is willing to waive the no-trade clause in his contract when he’s eligible to be dealt Jan. 15.”
This is good news for the organization because if he is off their books, they could have roughly $37 million in cap space this offseason when many other teams will not have as much room. According to a recent podcast on Yahoo Sports, the front office could receive a first-round pick in return.
Mirotic has recently shown why he has such trade tremendous value for the Bulls. Among those who have played at least as many games, only five forwards (Giannis Antetokounmpo, LeBron James, Kristaps Porzingis, Kevin Durant and Anthony Davis) average more points per 100 possessions.
The big man is also an effective distributor and has nearly doubled his assist rate from 6.7 percent last season to 11.7 percent since he has returned from his injury. On the other side of the ball, he has had a positive Defensive Real Plus-Minus rating during each year he has played in the league.
Michael Pina outlined what kind of team might be most interested in acquiring him (via VICE Sports):
“Trading Mirotic—he can’t actually be dealt until January 15th—makes sense. He isn’t good enough to push anybody over the edge into title contention, but could be useful for the right team, maybe one that isn’t guaranteed a playoff spot right now.
Perhaps the Detroit Pistons would package Stanley Johnson (who is no longer a starter in Detroit) and Jon Leuer with a first-round pick for Mirotic and Jerian Grant, which was outlined by Bleacher Report.
Pina mentioned the Los Angeles Clippers are a viable home for Mirotic as well. Once thought as likely sellers in the trade market, they have outscored opponents by 4.6 points per 100 possessions over the last 14 games. This ranks No. 6 overall among all teams during this stretch.
Other teams linked to the 26-year-old include the Washington Wizards, Milwaukee Bucks, New Orleans Pelicans and Philadelphia 76ers. But here are the most likely suitors.
San Antonio Spurs
Among those who have had as many spot-up opportunities, Mirotic has the best effective field goal percentage (75.8 percent) on this play type. No team in the league has run more spot-ups than San Antonio.
Mirotic would have an immediate role and an opportunity to succeed for the Spurs. The only player who averages more points per possession on spot-up plays this season is Patty Mills. The two players could be a lethal tandem.
Pau Gasol was not only a teammate on the Chicago Bulls but also with Spain for the 2016 Olympics and for Eurobasket 2015.
Portland Trail Blazers
Portland acquired a massive trade exception when they lost Allen Crabbe, which would help them land Mirotic. He would pair well with Al-Farouq Aminu.
They rebound well and while it might not be worth giving up a first-round pick, he can help them contend for a spot in the postseason. Even though they have a crowded frontcourt, he is an entirely different player compared to the rest of their roster.
Oklahoma City Thunder
The Thunder have the fourth-worst field goal percentage when they have taken spot-up shots so far this season, which is an area where Mirotic could immediately help fix.
However, he would offer a much more diverse skill set than that to his new squad and defenders would need to account for his dynamic playmaking ability.
Throughout the year, they have also struggled to find scoring off the bench. But they would have a solution in Mirotic, who has led the second-unit well in Chicago.
He represented the Spanish national basketball team in the 2016 Olympics with Oklahoma City’s Alex Abrines. Meanwhile, Kyle Singler was one of his teammates in Spain for Real Madrid during the lockout as well.
The Raptors have taken spot-up shots at the fifth-highest rate in the league this season. But they have the sixth-worst field goal percentage on these shot attempts, which is not sustainable for them as a team looking to make a big push in the postseason.
Their overall three-point percentage is the worst in the Eastern Conference, despite the recent emergence of a long distance shot from DeMar DeRozan.
Mirotic played alongside Serge Ibaka on Real Madrid during the 2011 NBA lockout.
New York Knicks
No team has taken or connected on fewer three-pointers per game than the Knicks, which is why they would have such a desperate need for a player like Mirotic.
If New York added someone like Mirotic, they could space the floor and defenders would have to account for a long distance shot as well.
Willy Hernangomez also developed within the Real Madrid program and their tenures briefly overlapped, which would bring some familiarity to both players. They have also played together for the Spanish national team.