Nikola Mirotic

Bucks’ Mirotic Fractures Thumb, Expected To Miss At Least 2-4 Weeks

The injury bug continues to plague the Bucks, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic, who reports (via Twitter) that Nikola Mirotic has sustained a slight fracture of his left thumb. League sources tell Charania that Mirotic is expected to be sidelined for at least two to four weeks.

Mirotic had just entered Milwaukee’s starting lineup within the last few days, replacing Malcolm Brogdon, who is expected to be on the shelf for at least six weeks due to a foot injury. Now the Bucks will have to find another new starter to replace Mirotic, who may be out until the playoffs — the final day of the regular season is three weeks from today.

Acquired by the Bucks at last month’s trade deadline, Mirotic missed his first few games due to a strained right calf, but had settled in nicely since then, averaging 11.6 PPG and 5.4 RPG on .415/.356/.870 in 22.9 minutes per contest for Milwaukee.

With Mirotic sidelined, the Bucks may have to lean a little more heavily on the likes of Ersan Ilyasova and D.J. Wilson in the frontcourt. New addition Pau Gasol could see some action as well, as the club looks to secure the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference.

Central Notes: Bucks, Mirotic, Cavs, Boylen

The Bucks haven’t won a postseason series since 2001, but general manager Jon Horst believes this is the year the team breaks that streak, and potentially makes a much deeper playoff run, as he tells Sam Amick of The Athletic.

“This is a time for us to take a step forward and to win a playoff series,” Horst said. “Even though people are sleeping on the Bucks, I think if we bowed out in the first round, everybody would be like, ‘What in the hell happened?’ Me included. That would be a disappointment.

“But it would be a significant thing for us to advance, because we haven’t done it in so long and it would be a big step for this group. But I think the metrics line up where if we can do that and stay healthy, and stay together, have some lucky breaks along the way, I think the talent and the performance thus far would show you that we should be playing into June, hopefully.”

As Amick explores in his deep dive on the Bucks, the team has enjoyed the sort of camaraderie and chemistry this season that Horst believes can play a significant part in a club’s success. In Horst’s view, that sort of enthusiasm to come into work extends to all aspects of the organization in Milwaukee, rather than just the 15 players on the NBA roster.

“Quite honestly, I’ve fired people in our organization because they can’t get excited about working for a franchise that has a brand new arena, a brand new practice facility, Giannis Antetokounmpo as a superstar, Mike Budenholzer as a head coach, and the ownership that we have,” Horst said. “And I say, ‘If you can’t get excited, and wake up in the morning to be part of that, then you don’t belong.’ That’s from a staffing perspective, and a player perspective, on down. That’s the culture. That’s the filter that we’ve tried to establish.”

Here’s more from around the Central:

  • Nikola Mirotic, who arrived in Milwaukee just a few weeks before Pau Gasol did, played a key role in ensuring his fellow Spaniard ended up with the Bucks, as Matt Velazquez of The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel details. When Gasol was presented with the opportunity to leave the Spurs via buyout and was considering joining the Bucks, he asked Mirotic for his impressions of the organization. “I said, ‘Listen, man, I really feel this team is special and if you want to be part of something special you should join this team,'” Mirotic said, per Velazquez. “That’s all I told him and I really felt that way.”
  • During the Cavaliers‘ four-year run as Eastern champs, they ultimately gave up on Joe Harris, who has since evolved into an important contributor in Brooklyn. Now that they’re in the midst of a rebuild themselves, the Cavs are looking to find “value in the margins” by identifying players like Harris, who may slip through the cracks elsewhere, writes Jason Lloyd of The Athletic.
  • Count Sixers head coach Brett Brown among those who believe in Jim Boylen‘s ability to lead the Bulls. Before his 76ers fell to Boylen’s squad on Wednesday night, Brown praised the Bulls’ head coach for getting the most out of his players, calling him the right person to “help steer this program” through its rebuild (link via Mark Strotman of NBC Sports Chicago). While Boylen took over for Fred Hoiberg during the season, he’s expected to return as Chicago’s coach next season.

Central Notes: Mirotic, Bulls, Lopez, Draft Prospects

Nikola Mirotic appears ready to make his Bucks debut when the season resumes tomorrow, writes Matt Valazquez of The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. Acquired from the Pelicans in a deal at the trade deadline, Mirotic has been sidelined since January 23 by a strain in his right calf.

Mirotic spent the All-Star break in Milwaukee, getting treatments from the Bucks’ training staff and doing strength and conditioning exercises. The coaches were busy in Charlotte, but they left plenty of material for Mirotic to study. He was able to participate in five-on-five activities at today’s practice and will likely be listed as probable for Thursday’s game against the Celtics.

“It was great; I feel way, way better,” Mirotic said. “Today was huge for me to practice with the team. It was great being back with the team and doing some work, some scrimmage.”

There’s more from the Central Division:

  • The Bulls will prioritize winning over draft position for the rest of the season, according to Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times. Chicago entered the All-Star break at 14-44, fourth in our latest Reverse Standings and just two games away from a chance to share the best odds for the No. 1 pick. However, building for the future is more important to the organization than tanking for a shot at Zion Williamson“I don’t make all those big picture decisions,” coach Jim Boylen said. “Again, I’m doing what I’ve been asked to do, which is coach the team as hard as I can in the best way possible. I’m just trying to do that, and our guys have been great and they’ve improved. We’ve got to get more out of them and they’ve got to improve more, and we’re going to coach them that way.’’
  • The Bulls‘ stance seems to include a commitment to center Robin Lopez, tweets K.C. Johnson of The Chicago Tribune. Lopez saw his minutes cut back late last season and previously appeared to be a buyout candidate with a $14.4MM expiring contract. “We have not discussed a diminished role for him at all.” Boylen said.
  • With Duke and North Carolina dominating the basketball spotlight tonight, Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com talked to Cavaliers officials to get their view of NBA prospects from both schools. One member of the Cavs’ coaching staff compares Williamson to Charles Barkley, while Channing Frye believes Cameron Reddish is the best of the group.

The Deadline Deals That Didn’t Happen

The Raptors were close to acquiring Nikola Mirotic, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports on his podcast. The power forward would have been part of a three-team trade with the Pelicans and Magic in the proposed framework. Toronto didn’t have the expiring contracts that New Orleans was seeking and Mirotic was instead sent to the Bucks.

Toronto shifted its focus back to Marc Gasol and acquired the big man from Memphis in exchange for Jonas ValanciunasDelon WrightC.J. Miles, and a 2024 second-round pick.

The Hornets came close to acquiring Gasol before some “last-minute haggling,”  ESPN’s Zach Lowe writes. Charlotte had a lottery-protected first-round pick on the table for most of the week leading up to the deadline. Lowe passes along more deals that were discussed behind the scenes. Here are the highlights from his latest piece:

  • The Sixers offered two second-rounders to the Pelicans for Mirotic and prior to trading for Tobias Harris, Philadelphia and New Orleans discussed a Markelle Fultz-Mirotic swap. Fultz was dealt to the Magic for Jonathon Simmons and a pair of picks.
  • The Hornets pursued a deal for Harrison Barnes, dangling a first-round pick to the Mavericks, Lowe adds in the same piece. Dallas would have had to take back long-term money in the potential deal, something that it wasn’t willing to do.
  • The Nets and Grizzlies briefly discussed sending Allen Crabbe to Memphis along with a first-round pick (Denver’s 2019 selection) in exchange for Garrett Temple and JaMychal Green, sources tell Lowe. Tax concerns led Memphis to shy away from acquiring Crabbe, who will take home approximately $19MM next season.
  • Several teams attempted to pry Andrew Wiggins from the Wolves without giving up much in return. Minnesota was uninterested in giving Wiggins away.
  • Kris Dunn was available at the deadline but the Bulls weren’t looking to deal Zach LaVine. Lowe writes that Chicago may have only considered trading LaVine if it received an overwhelming offer, something that was unlikely to occur.

Lowe’s Latest: Sixers, Mirotic, Hornets, Nets, More

The Buckstrade for Nikola Mirotic was made sweeter by the fact that the Sixers were in the hunt for the Pelicans‘ power forward before New Orleans opted to send him to Milwaukee, writes ESPN’s Zach Lowe in his post-deadline round-up.

According to Lowe, the Sixers offered a pair of second-round picks in their offer for Mirotic, which the Bucks bested by surrendering four second-rounders. Before the 76ers acquired Tobias Harris, they also discussed the general framework of a Mirotic/Markelle Fultz swap with the Pelicans, according to Lowe, who notes that it’s unclear whether those talks would have gotten serious if Philadelphia hadn’t completed its blockbuster deal for Harris.

Lowe’s article is packed with several more tidbits on the trade deadline, so we’ll round up the highlights here:

  • The Hornets came close to acquiring Marc Gasol from the Grizzlies for a package that would have included a lottery-protected pick, but the deal fell apart over “last-minute haggling” on the price, sources tell Lowe. Charlotte also pursued Harrison Barnes, but any offer that included a first-round pick would have also included multiyear salary the Mavericks didn’t want, Lowe reports.
  • Before the Grizzlies sent JaMychal Green and Garrett Temple to the Clippers, Memphis discussed a deal involving the duo for the Nets, according to Lowe, who says the return would’ve featured Allen Crabbe and Denver’s first-round pick. The Grizzlies, who had tax concerns, settled instead on L.A.’s offer, which didn’t include a draft pick.
  • At least one of the offers the Wizards received for Otto Porter featured a low first-round pick, but it would have been meant taking on multiyear money, per Lowe.
  • Kris Dunn probably could have been had at the deadline, but the Bulls likely wouldn’t have listened to inquiries on Zach LaVine unless someone had “overwhelmed” them, Lowe writes.
  • The Magic told teams in recent weeks that they wouldn’t part for Terrence Ross for anything less than a first-round pick, sources tell Lowe. Orlando ultimately kept Ross on its roster.
  • Jrue Holiday is a player worth keeping an eye on if and when the Pelicans eventually trade Anthony Davis. Sources tell Lowe that Holiday wants a chance to compete in the playoffs and is waiting to see what New Orleans gets in return for Davis.

Pelicans Trade Nikola Mirotic To Bucks In Three-Team Deal

7:36pm: The three-team trade involving the Pelicans, Bucks, and Pistons is now official, according to press releases issued by New Orleans and Milwaukee. Milwaukee gets Mirotic, Detroit gets Maker, and New Orleans acquires two players and four draft picks, as detailed below.

11:57am: The Bucks are adding another shooter to their frontcourt, having reached an agreement to acquire Nikola Mirotic from the Pelicans, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Zach Lowe (Twitter link).

New Orleans will receive Jason Smith‘s expiring contract along with Stanley Johnson in exchange for Mirotic, Woj reports (via Twitter). According to Marc Stein of The New York Times (via Twitter), the Pelicans will also receive four second-round picks as part of the deal.

A source tells Jake Fischer of SI.com (Twitter link) that two of those selections will be the Wizards’ 2020 and 2021 second-rounders, while Tim Bontemps of ESPN reports (via Twitter) that Denver’s 2019 second-rounder and the Bucks’ 2020 second-rounder are also in the package.

Milwaukee just reached an agreement on Wednesday to acquire Johnson from the Pistons in exchange for Thon Maker, but that deal has yet to be completed. the Bucks wouldn’t be permitted to aggregate Johnson’s salary with another player’s contract for two months after acquiring him, so it looks the two deals will be turned into one three-team trade, which helps explain why Detroit and Milwaukee haven’t finalized their agreement yet.

For the Bucks, this deal represents an impressive response to the Sixers’ acquisition of Tobias Harris on Wednesday. While Mirotic isn’t as dynamic a player as Harris, he should fit in very nicely in Mike Budenholzer‘s system, which already features a pair of sharpshooting big men in Brook Lopez and Ersan Ilyasova.

Mirotic, who will turn 28 next Monday, has been limited by injuries so far this season, but has been his usual productive self when he’s on the court, averaging 16.7 PPG and 8.3 RPG with a .447/.368/.842 shooting line in 28.9 MPG.

Mirotic is on an expiring contract, so the Bucks can add him to a list of free-agents-to-be that also includes Khris Middleton, Eric Bledsoe, Brook Lopez, and Malcolm Brogdon (restricted). Milwaukee will presumably attempt to retain as many of those players as possible in the offseason.

As for the Pelicans, their return for Mirotic won’t match the first-round pick they gave up for him a year ago, but they won’t take on any future salary, and one or two of those second-round picks could fall in the 30s.

They’ll also get a chance to take a look at Johnson, a former lottery pick who will be up for restricted free agency this summer. While the young wing never really blossomed into a reliable rotation player in Detroit, he still has some upside as a versatile defender, though he’d have to improve his shooting numbers to improve his value.

The Pelicans will have to open up a roster spot with another trade or cut in order to finalize the deal. The Bucks, on the other hand, will create an opening on their roster, though they’re now less than $1MM away from the luxury tax line, ESPN’s Bobby Marks notes (via Twitter).

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Trade Rumors: Randle, Mirotic, Raptors, Celtics

The Pelicans remain on the lookout for potential trades involving players besides Anthony Davis, but Will Guillory of The Athletic suggests (via Twitter) that Julius Randle seems unlikely to be moved this week. According to Guillory, Randle has developed a strong bond with the coaching staff in New Orleans and the club has interest in keeping him around long-term.

Another frontcourt Pelicans player, Nikola Mirotic, remains a trade candidate, according to Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer, who names the Jazz, Trail Blazers, Nets, and Spurs as clubs that have expressed interest in Mirotic. League sources tell O’Connor that New Orleans is seeking a first-round pick in exchange for Mirotic, with one source calling the club’s asking price “excessive.”

Of course, the Pelicans gave up a first-rounder for Mirotic a year ago, but at that time they got a year and a half of team control rather than just a a half-season, and also shed Omer Asik‘s unwanted contract in the deal.

Here are more trade rumors from around the NBA:

  • Although the Raptors have been linked to big names like Marc Gasol and Mike Conley, sources tell Michael Grange of Sportsnet.ca that a move around the periphery of the roster is far more likely than a major deal. Josh Lewenberg of TSN.ca confirms that a move involving Kyle Lowry is “highly unlikely,” but says the Raptors have been aggressive on the trade market and would move anyone on their roster if they feel like it makes them a better team. On the other hand, Toronto has no intention of moving Pascal Siakam unless the club gets a superstar-level return, Lewenberg notes.
  • Before Thursday’s trade deadline, the Celtics may try to attach cash to Jabari Bird in a trade to lower their projected tax bill, tweets Adam Himmelsbach of The Boston Globe. However, Bird’s legal issues complicate matters. Keith Smith of Yahoo Sports (Twitter link) has heard that Boston wants the NBA to expedite a decision on Bird, but the league is in no rush to set a precedent under the CBA’s domestic violence policy.
  • While Nuggets guard Gary Harris has been cited as a potential trade candidate, Matt Moore of ActionNetwork.com hears from a source that Denver hasn’t engaged in any “substantive” trade talks involving Harris and doesn’t currently plan to (Twitter link). While it’s possible that stance could change, Moore thinks the Nuggets would only consider moving Harris in a deal that lands the club a clear upgrade.

Lawrence’s Latest: Bucks, Mirotic, Sixers, Gasol

No one seems convinced that the Bucks are a viable suitor for Anthony Davis, given their dearth of first-round picks and the fact that most of their best players are on expiring contracts. However, co-owner Marc Lasry is still encouraged by the fact that Davis’ four-team list of preferred destinations includes Milwaukee, as he tells Sporting News’ Mitch Lawrence.

“I saw that report, and I think it’s great,” Lasry said. “It’s a little bit of what we want. We want players to come and play in Milwaukee. And part of it is, when you’re winning and you’re setting a standard for excellence, people see that. People want to win. It doesn’t make a difference if you’re in Milwaukee, New York or L.A. The whole goal is winning. So we hope it would be players like Anthony Davis and others who want to come to Milwaukee.”

Lasry, who may be bordering on tampering territory with his comments to Lawrence, acknowledged that it would be tricky for the Bucks to make a deal for Davis using the club’s current assets.

Here’s more from Lawrence:

  • The Bucks are working on a smaller trade or two, according to Lawrence, who identifies Pelicans forward Nikola Mirotic as one potential target for Milwaukee. “He’d be the perfect fit for the Bucks,” an Eastern Conference general manager said of Mirotic. “Another guy who can knock down threes would make them even more dangerous.”
  • The Sixers are another team interested in Mirotic and have offered the Pelicans a pair of second-round picks for him, per Lawrence. For salary-matching purposes, Wilson Chandler would likely have to be involved in any 76ers deal for Mirotic. Philadelphia has also looked at Terrence Ross (Magic) and Wesley Matthews (Knicks), Lawrence notes.
  • An Eastern Conference GM tells Lawrence that the Spurs are making an effort to move Pau Gasol. Gasol is on a pseudo-expiring contract, as only $6.7MM of his 2019/20 salary is guaranteed.
  • Lawrence suggests that the trade market for Grizzlies big man Marc Gasol may be negatively impacted by Gasol’s desire to get a contract extension this summer. If he doesn’t feel as if he’ll get a lucrative multiyear deal in the offseason, the 34-year-old could pick up his $25.6MM player option.

Deveney’s Latest: Blazers, Harkless, Saric, Matthews

After officially acquiring Rodney Hood in a trade with Cleveland earlier today, the Trail Blazers may not be done dealing, writes Sean Deveney of Sporting News. According to Deveney, some executives around the NBA have suggested that Portland regretted its relative inactivity at last season’s deadline and is more willing to make moves this time around.

Whether the Trail Blazers do anything drastic may hinge on their willingness to move second-year big man Zach Collins, according to Deveney, who says that the team has “resisted inquiries” on Collins so far.

Maurice Harkless is among the Trail Blazers who could be had though, and the team is open to moving its first-round pick as well, per Deveney. Harkless has one more year on his contract after this season, which figures to limit his value — teams like the Knicks and Nets have had interest in him in the past, but won’t want to compromise their 2019 cap flexibility by acquiring him now, Deveney observes.

Here’s more on the Blazers, plus a couple other notes from Deveney on the trade market:

  • Nikola Mirotic (Pelicans), Jeremy Lin (Hawks), Evan Fournier (Magic), and JaMychal Green (Grizzlies) are among the players the Trail Blazers have expressed interest in, sources tell Deveney.
  • Dario Saric‘s production and playing time has dipped since Ryan Saunders took over as the Timberwolves‘ head coach, and Deveney suggests that it wouldn’t be a shock to see Saric back on the trade block in the offseason, or even this week. “He could be had for a decent offer, a first-rounder and a player,” one league executive told Deveney.
  • Deveney reiterates that the Raptors and Rockets are expected to be among the favorites for Wesley Matthews if he’s bought out, as we heard earlier today. The Bucks wouldn’t be among Matthews’ suitors, per Deveney, though Milwaukee hopes to add one more frontcourt piece via trade or free agency.

Latest On Mike Conley, Marc Gasol Suitors

The Jazz and Grizzlies have explored a trade involving Mike Conley and Ricky Rubio, and Zach Lowe of ESPN.com hears that Utah’s interest in the former No. 4 overall pick is “very real.” The organization could feasibly build a package around Rubio and Derrick Favors, who are both on expiring deals, while peppering in a draft pick or two.

Utah is reportedly unimpressed with the 2019 draft class and their first-round pick is on the table in trade talks. It’s unclear if the Jazz would toss in a second first-round pick for Conley, though it would be a surprising development. Lowe speculates that Dante Exum could be in the mix as part of a package, adding that the Jazz could move on to more affordable targets, such as Nikola Mirotic, if the price for Conley remains too high.

The Conley sweepstakes are expected to heat up as we get closer to the deadline and surprise suitors could emerge. Lowe passes along more from Memphis regarding their two biggest stars:

  • Marc Gasol is hoping for a trade and teams are waiting to see if the Grizzlies lower the asking price for their long-time center, Lowe reports. As for a potential Pistons-Grizzlies deal, Memphis has not shown any interest in acquiring Andre Drummond yet and Lowe hears that Detroit may be saving its trade chips for someone else.
  • The Pistons and Grizzlies have talked about a Conley deal, though discussions did not get very far. Detroit would likely have to ship out Reggie Jackson is a trade for Conley.
  • While Conley would be a nice on-court fit for the Pacers, Indiana has stepped away from Conley talks, sources tell Lowe. Lowe speculates that the Grizzlies would likely ask for Domantas Sabonis is a Conley deal, something that wouldn’t appeal to the Pacers.
  • The Jazz would have interest in signing Tobias Harris this summer should they not trade for Conley or make a major move at the deadline that utilizes their future cap space. The Clippers have received calls for Harris, per Lowe, though rival teams get the sense that they have no interest in trading him. Lowe adds that Los Angeles would be happy to re-sign Harris in the offseason.
  • The Kings are not as interested in Gasol as reports and speculation might suggest. Sacramento doesn’t appear to be willing to hand over a future first-rounder in exchange for the big man, as the club owes its 2019 pick to Boston (Philadelphia gets the selection if it’s the No. 1 pick).