Josh Hicks is Managing Editor of WARR and a contributor to The D & Davis Show
So far, the NBA trade deadline has sparked a new path for at least one star across the league.
The Clippers paved the way for a possible game-changing trade deadline period with a transaction that shocked the world after they shipped star player Blake Griffin — who signed a five-year, $171 million contract only six months ago — to the Detroit Pistons in order to retool and make the team younger, a final shot to the “Lob City” era, which already saw Chris Paul shipped away and final holdout DeAndre Jordan looking like a possible deal piece as well.
With less immediate stakes, but plenty on the line for the near future and further, the Chicago Bulls finally pulled the trigger on their long-awaited deal of one-time assault victim Nikola Mirotic but with a somewhat surprising partner. The sharpshooting Euro forward and a 2018 second-round pick was included in a deal to the New Orleans Pelicans for Tony Allen, Omir Asik, Jameer Nelson and a 2018 first-round pick. The Bulls have cut Quincy Pondexter to create roster space and plan to waive Tony Allen in the process. This trade truly shows the ultimate direction of the Bulls going forward: preparing for the future while staying somewhat relevant in the present.
A new start for Mirotic in New Orleans is a beneficial move for a few reasons.
First, Mirotic’s departure was bound to happen and quite frankly, it was a necessary move that needed to be made. After the fight with former teammate Bobby Portis, Mirotic made up his mind that it was time to move to the next chapter in his life. He was already competing for time that was shared with Portis, and the Bulls were officially going through a rebuilding stage, letting the new and younger talent grow under coach Hoiberg so that they can continue to build the solid foundation needed for the future.
Niko is ready to play for a franchise that is fighting for a playoff spot, and Pelicans are a team that is currently in the playoff hunt sitting seventh in the West. Right now with the playoffs out of sight, it was better for Niko to be on a winning team than the struggling Bulls, which are currently 18-33, third worst in the Eastern Conference.
The second point is the Pelicans now have an extra shooter that they desperately need. With the loss of their star DeMarcus Cousins due to a torn Achilles, the Pelicans have to replace 25 points and 13 rebounds a game. Niko may not give you those direct points and rebounds every game, but he can give you 17 points a game and 42 percent from three. He may not be Boogie, but Niko can get you efficient shooting that can get you over the hump regarding making the playoffs.
Also, with Niko getting guaranteed money next season, if the Pelicans succeed in re-signing Boogie to a max contract, Niko adds depth to the best big man duo in basketball with Boogie and Anthony Davis.
Last but not least, this trade elevates the Bulls chances of a successful rebuild. The Bulls already are on pace to get a lottery pick this season based on their performance this season, but this 2018 first round pick they received is projected to be a top five pick.
This gives them two chances within the top five to select nice incoming talent, which in this years loaded draft can range from Oklahoma star Trae Young, Arizona’s Deandre Ayton, Real Madrid’s Luka Doncic, Duke’s Marvin Bagley and Missouri’s Michael Porter Jr. Having the opportunity to pair two top five picks with the young core of Kris Dunn, Zach Lavine and Lauri Markkenan can really put the Bulls in the right direction moving forward for the next couple of years.
Bulls’ management made a good move in flipping a quality NBA-ready talent for future quality with potential upside. Chicago increased its chances of a bright future while also finding a right destination that fits Niko, which makes the franchise as a whole look much more competent than it did when the Bulls were getting headlines for the Mirotic-Portis brawl.
Hopefully the Bulls can capitalize on this win-win trade come draft time this summer.
Joshua M. Hicks is a Chicago-based sports writer and broadcaster, follow him on Twitter @jhicks042; Follow We Are Regal Radio on Twitter @regalradio1 and on Facebook under We Are Regal Radio