Pelicans’ Deal For Nikola Mirotic Falls Apart For Now

1:40pm: In his full report on the story, Wojnarowski suggests that Mirotic’s 2018/19 option is the primary source of the stalemate. Mirotic appears unwilling to sign off on the deal if his option isn’t exercised, and the Pelicans are reluctant to commit to that option due to concerns about next season’s payroll.Nikola Mirotic vertical

12:59pm: Goodwill classifies the trade as having hit a “snag,” while Johnson says the two teams remain in “advanced discussions” (Twitter links). So while nothing is officially done yet, it sounds like the deal isn’t dead either.

12:48pm: The Pelicans and Bulls had a deal in place for Mirotic, but it has fallen apart for now, reports ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (via Twitter). ESPN’s Bobby Marks notes (via Twitter) that the Pelicans’ proximity to a hard cap prevented the team from trading Asik straight up for Mirotic.

If the Pelicans include another player for cap purposes, the deal could still happen, tweets K.C. Johnson of The Chicago Tribune. However, New Orleans hadn’t yet agreed to pick up Mirotic’s team option, so a trade would also require his OK, assuming the Pelicans don’t relent and agree to exercise that option.

12:40pm: The Pelicans and Bulls have reached an agreement on a trade that would send power forward Nikola Mirotic to New Orleans, according to Vincent Goodwill of NBC Sports Chicago (Twitter link). Goodwill reports that the Bulls will receive Omer Asik and a first-round pick in exchange for Mirotic.

There have been no further reports or official announcements confirming the move so far, but it’s possible the two teams are working out details related to Mirotic’s contract. His deal gives him the ability to veto trades unless his 2018/19 team option is exercised, though there was a belief that he’d give his approval to a deal if the Bulls found an offer they liked.

Mirotic, who has been the subject of trade rumors throughout the 2017/18 campaign, was sidelined with facial injuries to start the season after being punched by teammate Bobby Portis during an altercation in practice. Mirotic’s camp reportedly issued an ultimatum in the fall in an effort to get the Bulls to trade either Mirotic or Portis, but the power forwards were willing to bury the hatchet and coexist on the court when Mirotic got healthy.

Since returning to action, Mirotic has enjoyed the most productive year of his NBA career, averaging 16.8 PPG and 6.4 RPG to go along with a .474/.429/.823 shooting line. All of those numbers are career highs. Despite his solid play and the club’s improved record, Mirotic was still said to prefer a trade out of Chicago.

As the Bulls explored the market for Mirotic, the Jazz and Pistons were cited most frequently as potential trade partners. However, Detroit landed a bigger fish on Monday, acquiring Blake Griffin from the Clippers, and Utah was reportedly unwilling to include a first-round pick in an offer for the stretch four.

The Bulls, who were said to be seeking a first-rounder for Mirotic all along, appear poised to get that pick from the Pelicans, though they’ll have to take on an unwanted contract in the process. Asik, a former Bull, is earning about $10.6MM this season, with a guaranteed salary worth $11.29MM in 2018/19. The veteran center has one more year on his deal in 2019/20, but it’s only partially guaranteed for $3MM. By comparison, Mirotic will earn $12.5MM this season and has a $12.5MM team option for ’18/19.

While the Bulls did well to find a first-round pick for a player whose value looked to be on the decline just a few months ago, it’s worth questioning why the team is willing to take on a toxic contract like Asik’s to make it happen, just seven months after selling a high second-round pick to the Warriors for a mere $3.5MM.

As for the Pelicans, they’re set to fill the lineup hole created when DeMarcus Cousins went down on Friday with a season-ending Achilles injury. The move signals that New Orleans still fully intends to make a playoff push this season, pairing Mirotic with Anthony Davis in the frontcourt. The club will also have the financial flexibility to retain Mirotic on his team option next season, since it’ll only cost about $1.2MM than Asik’s guaranteed salary would have. The ability to retain Mirotic is solid insurance in the event that Cousins leaves in free agency — if Cousins re-signs, it’d be interesting to see if the Pelicans would want to carry all three players on next year’s roster.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

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26 thoughts on “Pelicans’ Deal For Nikola Mirotic Falls Apart For Now

  1. hiflew

    They could probably add either Darius Miller or Dante Cunningham (more likely since he is expiring) to the deal and the Bulls could add a future 2nd round pick. I sense this deal will still get done.

    • justinept

      Bulls don’t have a 2nd rd pick until like 2021. Plus, if thy had one, the pick would be like 36th overall. They’d basically be dealing Niko to move up 15 spots.

  2. DVail1979

    New Orleans will have to pick up Mirotic’s option I’m guessing also to get this done … so it’s a matter of what second player goes back to the Bulls and are the Pelicans willing to guarantee Mirotic another season?

  3. Sirsleepit

    “It’s worth questioning why they would take on a toxic contract”
    Is it? Is it really worth questioning that a hard capped team had to include salary? Also, the bulls are below the salary floor, so does it really matter? The true prize is the pick and getting rid of mirotic.

    • Luke Adams

      A hard-capped team having to send out salary and the Bulls being below the salary floor are both 2017/18 issues that aren’t good reasons for the Bulls taking on a contract that has $14MM+ left on it AFTER this season.

      The obvious answer for why they’d do it is “it’s the best offer they could find,” but it seems like they’re placing a significantly different value on a draft pick than they were just a few months ago.

      • Connorsoxfan

        Isn’t 3.5 million the maximum amount of tradable cash? If they didn’t like anyone at that slot, there wasn’t much more they could’ve done with that slot. The difference in $$ is minimal since Mirotic’s option would’ve been picked up barring a major long term injury anyways.

        • Luke Adams

          $3.5MM was the max last year, yeah. In a vacuum, you could defend both moves. I just think it was a really bad look for a rebuilding team to sell a top-40 pick to the defending champs. It’s a good sign that the Bulls are now willing to take on salary in order to pick up an asset, but Asik’s contract is bad enough that I feel like the Pelicans would have had to attach a first-rounder just to outright dump it — the Bulls are giving up a pretty good player on top of that. (Assuming this deal eventually happens, of course, which is hardly a lock).

          • Connorsoxfan

            Yeah selling the 2nd was a bad look. I agree. My point was just that it wasn’t actually equal to paying 14 million for a first rounder. I would’ve thought mirotic for asik, the first, and a ‘19 second would be about right. Salaries match roughly, Bulls take on a contract that looks intriguing next year as an expiring deal (except for the partial guarantee), so in addition to the picks now they could swap Asik next year as an expiring deal for another bad deal attached to a first.

            • Luke Adams

              I think I’m just surprised by the idea that they’d have to take back a contract like Asik’s to get a first-rounder for Mirotic, whose value should be pretty positive right now. But if they don’t have big plans for their 2018 cap space, I suppose that deal wouldn’t hurt them much.

    • Djones246890

      Agree. This draft pick could turn out to be the final piece of an EXTREMELY quick rebuild (Thanks, Thibs!!), and turn the Bulls into serious contenders.

      If I’m the Bulls front office, I wouldn’t worry too much about Asik’s contract, given the potential of the pick, to solidify their roster.

  4. rxbrgr

    Just throw in Tony Allen to get the deal done. The Bulls have an extra roster spot.

    • The Pelicans need as many wing players as possible as that’s their biggest hole. Trading one for a stretch 4 only digs that hole deeper.

  5. Had to know that Mirotic’s option would be an obstacle. As much as he probably wants out of Chicago, he has a lot of leverage with the ability to veto a trade. Chicago could’ve just picked up his option to avoid that, but that lowers his value to contenders. Not many true contenders are going to want that extra year already guaranteed (not saying they flat out don’t want it, but they’d rather make that decision themselves than to be forced to pick it up). Only a desperate team, like the Pelicans, are likely going to pick up his option right away instead of letting the season play out.

  6. Odd that they would not want to exercise the option if their giving up a 1st round pick for him.
    Maybe getting rid of Asik’s contract (almost dead money at 11.3 and 3 the next 2 years) is a big part of the value in the deal. They’re also close to the tax line and that may be an issue next year if they carry him and Cousins with a new deal. Still, Mirotic can be dealt for something at his number, so it’s still a little confusing.

    • Djones246890

      My guess is they view getting rid of Asik’s contract as the best part of the deal. As far as Mirotic, they probably don’t want to commit, because they want to see if he was just playing light out because he wanted to be traded. They might be worried about prematurely committing, and then having him go back to being mediocre.

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