The Chicago Bulls have been on a roll after Nikola Mirotic returned from an odd facial injury that sidelined him for the first few months of the season. The team had a 3-20 slate prior to his comeback and had won 10 of 15 games since then, including a seven-game winning streak last month.
Chicago is currently third from the last place in the Eastern Conference with a 13-25 record, one-and-a-half games above the Orlando Magic and two-and-a-half games ahead of cellar-dwelling squad Atlanta Hawks. Some analysts have attributed their emergence from the cellar to the strong play of Mirotic, who is averaging 18.4 points, 7.1 rebounds, and 1.5 assists in 25.3 minutes per game this season.
Mirotic’s remarkable performances have increased his trade value, which is something the Bulls actually want. His facial fractures and concussion were reportedly suffered after a physical altercation with teammate Bobby Portis in practice before the season began.
The two had been civil since then, but are still not talking to each other off the court. With that, speculations abound that Mirotic wants a trade out of Chicago as soon as possible.
The Chicago Sun-Times reported that the 6-foot-10 Spaniard is “willing to waive his no-trade clause” just to be moved to a “playoff contender” before the February 8 trade deadline.
According to the latest trade rumors, two teams are interested in taking Mirotic and they are the New York Knicks and Detroit Pistons.
The Knicks are just a game behind current eight-seeded team Indiana Pacers in the East with an 18-20 record. A strong push in the second half of the season could push head coach Jeff Hornacek’s squad to finally qualify for the playoffs for the first time in five years.
Maxwell Ogden of FanSided’s Daily Knicks blog said that Mirotic would help Hornacek “build an unpredictable offensive unit” with a potential sweet-shooting pairing with Kristaps Porzingis up front. With Mirotic and Porzingis both known to be dangerous outside shooters, their starting lineup could pose “general matchup nightmares” against other squads, the report added.
However, Mirotic’s apparent weakness on defensive would be a risk that the Knicks should take in acquiring him.
Meanwhile, Bleacher Report’s Grant Hughes suggested a Bulls-Pistons deal that would send Mirotic and point guard Jerian Grant to Detroit in exchange for Stanley Johnson, Jon Leuer, and a 2018 first-round lottery-protected selection.
Hughes noted that the Pistons “would get a floor-stretching 4 who could start or come off the bench and close games in spaced-out lineups.”
The Pistons would also benefit from Mirotic’s perimeter shooting prowess while starting point guard Reggie Jackson recovers from a severe right ankle sprain suffered last week. Jackson’s temporary replacement, Ish Smith, is a slasher-type player that complements well with Mirotic’s style of play, Hughes said.