The Bulls dealt Nikola Mirotic (plus a second-round pick and the right to swap another second-rounder) to the Pelicans on Thursday in exchange for Omer Asik, Tony Allen, Jameer Nelson (the latter of whom the Bulls reportedly intend to keep), and a 2018 first-round draft pick (protected 1–5), according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. New Orleans will take on Mirotic’s $12.5 million deal for the 2018–19 season, a condition that had previously held up the trade.
Let’s look in live as the Pelicans get rid of Asik’s contract:
Quincy Pondexter, who was traded from New Orleans to Chicago over the summer, will also be waived to clear a roster spot.
The Winner: The Pelicans’ Playoff Hopes
The Pelicans gave Asik a five-year, $58 million deal nearly three summers ago. Since then, Asik’s minutes have evaporated, and he hasn’t been able to average even five points per game. One could say that was a bad deal for an even worse return, but it would be a criminal understatement.
But after losing DeMarcus Cousins for the rest of the season to a left Achilles tear, the Pelicans are instant winners. They not only get Asik off the books, but they also add a necessary piece to help their playoff hopes, even if it does come at the cost of a mid-first-round pick. Mirotic has averaged 16.8 points and 6.4 rebounds in the 25 games he’s played this season. He is also shooting a ridiculous 42.9 percent from 3 on six attempts a game — a percentage that’s better than any qualified player on the Pelicans’ roster. Giving away their 2018 first-rounder means that both of the Pelicans’ picks in this upcoming draft belong to the Bulls after New Orleans traded its second-rounder along with Pondexter in September. It isn’t a great sign for Dell Demps’s tenure as GM that he rarely gets a chance to draft rookies, but it’s also clear that the Pelicans’ directive is to win now. So while the Pelicans again miss out on a chance to add another young player around Anthony Davis, the deal makes a certain sense in a vacuum, especially if Mirotic can maintain his hot shooting streak.
The Other Winner: The Bulls’ Tanking Run
For those who were already dreaming about Luka Doncic in a Bulls jersey, rest assured that there’s still hope. Without Mirotic to start the season, the Bulls were on a fantastic tanking pace, winning only three of their first 23 games. As soon as Mirotic returned to the lineup and began hitting 3s like they were layups, the Bulls won 15 of their next 28 games, including seven straight when Mirotic came back. Chicago is 18–33, sitting just outside the bottom five in the standings. But there’s no doubt that getting rid of Mirotic helps it climb (or stumble) in the Down for Doncic Sweepstakes. Or the Bad for Bagley Contest. Take your pick.