With the NBA trade deadline coming up in less than 30 days, this is the time of the year where hardcore NBA fans dust off ESPN.com’s trade machine to create unrealistic trades for their favorite teams and Lakers fans spend another season awaiting LeBron’s The Decision Pt. II where he finally takes his talents to the City of Angels.
As we patiently await breaking news in the form of Wojbombs, the rumor mill has been buzzing with potential trades. One of which being a deal between the Chicago Bulls and Utah Jazz. Per Marc Stein of the New York Times, Chicago’s Nikola Mirotic would be swapped for Utah’s Derrick Favors.
As previously reported, the emergence of Markkanen, plus Mirotic eyeing big payday in 2020 free agency at time LaVine, Dunn on or due big deals, paint Bulls as motivated sellers.
— K.C. Johnson (@KCJHoop) January 9, 2018
On the surface, this news may seem a bit questionable to some Bulls fans. Mirotic’s return from injury has coincided with a 7-game win streak and a renewed optimism for Bulls fans. With Mirotic back in the lineup, Chicago has won 12 games, and quadrupled its win total. Add Mirotic’s 17.4 points and seven rebounds per game averages, why would Chicago even consider trading the fourth-year forward when things are going so well?
Since the 26-year-old entered the league four years ago, Mirotic held the reputation as a streaky shooter at best. Though he’s shooting well now, his numbers have never been sustainable. Following Chicago’s win streak, opponents average an offensive rating of 110.7 when Niko’s on the court, outscoring the Bulls by 1.1 points per 100 possessions. The team as a whole has experienced a regression to the mean as well, losing five of their last seven games.
The emergence of rookie Lauri Markkanen is another factor that makes Niko expendable. The 20-year-old forward is averaging 15.4 points and 7.6 rebounds on the season, including career-highs in points (33) and three-pointers made (8) Wednesday night.
Niko’s contract situation has probably come up in discussions, as well. After signing a 2-year, $27 million deal with the Bulls, he could ask for me than the team is willing to give in 2020.
The goal for most teams is to either attain a high lottery pick or to compete in the playoffs. Mediocrity is something this young Bulls team should not aspire for because it can be dangerous for teams with no identity or direction. Trading Mirotic would be the sensible thing for GarPax to do, but the Bulls rarely make trades in-season. The ball is now in Chicago’s court, which direction they’re leaning towards is a mystery…for now.
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