By: Alex Patt
This is a very odd time during year one of the Chicago Bulls rebuild. The team is winning basketball games. When they lost to the Indiana Pacers back on December 6th, their record was 3-20 and seemed to be setting up for the league’s worst record.
Their next game on December 8th in Charlotte marked the return of Nikola Mirotic after recovering from broken bones in the face after getting punched by Bobby Portis. Since Mirotic’s return, the Bulls are 9-2 and had a seven game win streak during that span. The Bulls are averaging 108.1 points per game and have improved their record to 12-22. Still well below .500, but showing promise with their young assets.
During these past few weeks, Niko has been lighting it up offensively. In the 11 games he has played, he is averaging 17.2 points per game, .504 field goal percentage, 2.5 three-pointers per game and 0.7 turnovers per game. He also has a 22.9 PER after having a 14.5 PER last season. Right now, his value as a player is very high. Just last month people were wondering if he was going to want to play with the Bulls again after the Portis incident and if he was on his way out due to that. Now, he may be traded for a different reason or kept around because of his production.
So what would be the best thing to do with Niko Mirotic?
Mirotic currently is making $12.5 million and has a team option on his contract next year. The fact of the matter is, the Chicago Bulls are rebuilding. A string of good games is not going to completely derail a rebuild plan. The front office committed to it by trading Jimmy Butler in the offseason. This is a very young team that is a long way from a championship still, even with the promising pieces in Kris Dunn, Lauri Markkanen and potentially Zach LaVine. Trade Mirotic when you can while his value is high.
It is a bit easier said than done, considering Mirotic has the ability to say yes or no to a trade. But this is something the Bulls have to try to do. If he can be traded for a solid return, then it will help bring the rebuild along even nicer. And if Mirotic is traded away and the team does not win many games again, that is good for a potential top pick. Yes, it is very hard to want the team to lose, it really is. But in year one of a rebuild, it is necessary. A top pick along with the young core the Bulls have can become something really special in a few years, which is the ultimate goal.
Whether it is for draft picks or young assets, the Bulls could benefit either return in a potential Mirotic trade even if it is not for a whole lot. While destinations would mostly include contenders, there are other teams that could potentially go after him. Kind of hard to say right now who, though a report said the Knicks would be an ideal destination for him. Also, because he signed his deal later in the offseason, Mirotic cannot be traded until January 15th.
If Mirotic stayed around and the Bulls won around 30-some games, only resulting in a mid-level first round pick come June, it would not benefit the Bulls future nearly as much. Superstars are needed to win championships, everyone knows that. It is admittedly fun to see what this young Bulls team is doing right now, frankly much more fun than watching washed up Dwyane Wade lead a mediocre 8th seed squad knowing there is not a legit future for a championship. The kids have a lot of heart and they will go out and compete every night. It just makes sense for the front office to continue the plan of rebuilding and deal veterans for value for the purpose of getting more young assets.