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Bulls (officially, this time) trade Nikola Mirotic to New Orleans Pelicans

slight tweaks to the rumored earlier deal

NBA: Preseason-Chicago Bulls at New Orleans Pelicans Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

The Chicago Bulls chapter in Nikola Mirotic’s career is officially over. First reported by Woj at ESPN, Niko is indeed headed to New Orleans to join Anthony Davis and the Pelicans.

The Pelicans will send a first-round pick (protected top five in 2018, and protected top eight in 2019), center Omer Asik, and veteran guards Tony Allen and Jameer Nelson. The Bulls are also sending in a couple sweeteners with Mirotic: the second round pick they acquired from New Orleans last September in the Quincy Pondexter trade. In return for that, the Bulls earned swap rights in the second round of the 2021 draft.

So the basics are the same as the rumored deal from earlier in the week. What changes is that the Pelicans agreed to pick up Mirotic’s $12.5 million team option for the 2018-2019 season, and the Bulls paid them a small price to do so. As was suspected here, the Pelicans were waiting for the Bulls to cave and they did. We know historically they simply don’t value second-round picks (even during a rebuild), and frequently throw them in last-minute to trades.

In terms of the current roster, as the Bulls are sending out 1 player for 3 there are some additional moves to be made. The Bulls will waive the aforementioned Pondexter to make the trade work (they had one spot open after waiving Kay Felder weeks ago). Then they’ll reportedly waive Allen, but may hold on to Nelson. Both are on expiring, minimum-salary contracts, but Nelson has actually produced this year and may both serve as a PG stopgap while Kris Dunn remains sidelined, and could potentially be flipped in another deal before the 2/9 deadline.

Here’s some nitty, gritty details on the Bulls salary cap situation after the trade.

Amid heavy trade speculation, Mirotic sat out yesterday in the Bulls ugly 124-108 loss against the Portland Trail Blazers. His tumultuous Chicago Bulls career ends after 3.5 seasons, including this season where he unexpectedly returned from a teammate-induced face-breaking to be the the Bulls best player and leading the team to a mediocre record in the games he played. Undoubtedly another ‘benefit’ to making this deal now is to replace Mirotic’s production with someone worse (but more of a long-term potential fit), and help the team creep up the lottery rankings this year.

What we will likely never know is if the Bulls sold low and the Bulls yet again misread the market. Theoretically, Mirotic’s performance alone was worth a 1st round pick, or taking on over $14m of dead money into next season worth a first too...and here: the two Bulls assets combined for a single 1st, with pick protections (BUT, this potentially is a first rounder in the teens, which is obviously better than a contender’s first-rounder) and an outgoing marginal asset as well.