After misfiring on their initial trade attempt a day prior, the Chicago Bulls finally pull off a deal with the New Orleans Pelicans involving forward Nikola Mirotic. Multiple sources report that Chicago has traded Mirotic to the Pelicans in exchange for center Omer Asik along with guards Jameer Nelson and Tony Allen and a 2018 first-round pick. Adrian Wojnarowski also reports that the Pelicans pick holds "minimal" protections. The Vertical's Shams Charania reports that Chicago will waive swingman Quincy Pondexter--who they acquired from the Pelicans last summer--to facilitate the swap. Wojnarowski also notes that the Bulls will likely waive Allen and Nelson.
Bulls firing up the tank again?
The Bulls have been trying to trade Mirotic since he returned from facial injuries suffered literally at the hands of teammate Bobby Portis. Since Mirotic came back, he has posted career highs in points per game (16.8), rebounds (6.4), assists (1.6), true shooting percentage (.624), PER (22.2), and win shares per 48 minutes (.165). His uptick in production made him a prime trade candidate for a Bulls team that clearly has no interest in winning this season.
For Chicago, the fourth-youngest team in the NBA, this trade opens the door for head coach Fred Hoiberg to give more minutes to the likes of Portis, Rookie of the Year candidate Lauri Markkanen, and Paul Zipser.
Of the three players the Bulls received for Mirotic, Asik has the best chance of staying with the team. This will be the big man's second stint with Chicago; he played for them from 2010-2012, his first two seasons in the league. During his first stay, Asik was a serviceable backup to Joakim Noah; he averaged eight points and 2.3 blocks per 36 minutes through his first couple of seasons in Chicago. Health has been a recent issue for Asik though; he has only played in 45 games over the last two seasons while recovering from Chron's Disease.
The Bulls have more than enough cap space to accommodate Asik, Allen, and Nelson. According to ESPN's Bobby Marks, Chicago is $14.8 million below the salary cap and $5.6 million below the salary floor. But on a young Bulls team, they will probably let the veteran guards go.
What about the Pelicans?
New Orleans, currently ranked fifth in the NBA in three-point field goal percentage, add some more shooting with the acquisition of Mirotic. He also seems like the obvious candidate to replace the injured DeMarcus Cousins in the starting lineup. Obviously, Mirotic isn't close to the same caliber of player that Cousins is, but he can provide some floor spacing for Rajon Rondo and Anthony Davis. As of Thursday, New Orleans is seventh in the Western Conference, but only two games separate them and ninth-place Los Angeles Clippers. If the Pelicans fall out of the playoff race, the Bulls stand to benefit even more, as they would then have two lottery picks (as long as the pick doesn't land in the top five). The Pelicans also created a roster spot with this move, as the team now has space to try and sign forward Greg Monroe.
Who won the trade?
Both teams made out well with this trade. The Bulls get an additional pick for their rebuild, while the Pelicans get cap flexibility and rosters space as they try to recover from the loss of Cousins.