The Nikola Mirotic trade rumors are heating up, 6 days before the Bulls forward is eligible to be moved.
First there was this:
The Pistons have joined Utah in expressing trade interest for Bulls forward Nikola Mirotic, according to league sources— Marc Stein (@TheSteinLine) January 9, 2018
Then there was this four minutes later:
Can confirm Pistons have shown preliminary interest in Mirotic, per source. @TheSteinLine 1st. Also told Portland could join mix with Jazz and Pistons. Bulls motivated to get 1st round pick for Niko.— K.C. Johnson (@KCJHoop) January 9, 2018
All three teams have their own first round picks in 2018 and 2019 as well as a medley of second round picks.
Both the Pistons and the Trail Blazers are well above the salary cap threshold so both teams will need to look to offload a contract if they obtain Mirotic’s $12.5 million contract for this season.
If the Bulls are adamant about not taking long term salary, it limits who can come back in any deal. Anthony Tolliver and Avery Bradley both are on expiring contracts for the Pistons but are firmly in their rotation. Stanley Johnson is one of those players in need of a fresh start and he’s set to make $3 million and $3.9 million for the next two seasons respectively so that’s manageable for the Bulls. Ish Smith and the $6 million he’s owed each of the next two seasons seems like a moveable contract as well, but he’s the starting PG with Reggie Jackson out. Jon Leuer ($30 million over the next three years) has a bad contract that the Bulls could absorb in exchange for that coveted first-round pick although the Bulls may not want to commit to his contract for that long.
The Trail Blazers have five players with expiring contracts this season (but they probably won’t give up Jusuf Nurkic, and Shabazz Napier is their current backup PG - Ed Davis and/or Noah Vonleh are more realistic). Al-Farouq Aminu will make $7 million and $6 million respectively over the next two seasons.
The general format for all these trade scenarios is for the Bulls not only offering Mirotic but also provide salary relief, and they’d get a first-round pick for the privilege. What will be negotiable is just how much salary (and for how long) will the Bulls eat, and then any possible pick protections. At least Mirotic is suddenly a hot commodity after seeing his free agent market dry up quickly last summer. Playing out of his mind likely helped.