Thanks to a recent article by Adrian Wojnarowski, rumors of an impending trade between the Utah Jazz and Chicago Bulls have grown louder. While it has since been confirmed the two teams have engaged in discussions regarding power forward Nikola Mirotic, it also has been reported that those discussions have died down.
The holdup to trade discussions is that the Bulls are demanding a first-round pick along with an expiring contract. For the Utah Jazz — who are simultaneously 3.5 games out of the playoffs and 3.5 games out of the third pick of the draft — giving up a first-round pick is a tough ask.
We'll let Dennis Lindsey and the rest of the front office staff decide on the appropriate price for Mirotic. For now, let's look at what Mirotic brings to the court.
To start, this is what Niko did to the Jazz when they played Chicago last month:
This year has been far and away the best in Mirotic's career with averages of 17.4 points and nearly three made 3-pointers with 59.7 effective field goal percentage. Tack on his career-high seven rebounds per game and 3.5 net-rating and Mirotic's potential impact is mouth-watering. What Lindsey and the FO need to decide, however, is whether that performance is real or simply a 17-game hot streak.
In his first three years, Niko averaged 10.2, 11.8 and 10.6 points, respectively. His 3-point shooting percentage has been 31.6, 39.0 and 34.2 (up to 46.5 this year — an enormous, and likely unsustainable, jump) with an EFG% at 48.5, 51.6 and 51.8.
To be honest, those huge jumps concern me. Are they sustainable? Even his rebounding is up significantly (defensive rebounding percentages of 21.9, 20.8 and 19.7, up to 26.0 this year.)
That being said, there's one statistic that's encouraging to me — the team's net rating with Niko on the court. He has been a net positive every year on the court — 6.1 in his rookie year, then 0.2, 4.7 and 3.5 this year. Some of that is obviously impacted by the teammates he plays with, but consistently rating as a net positive is a good sign.
Would Mirotic make the Utah Jazz a better team? It's impossible to tell for sure. This year's performance, stretched over an entire season, is a borderline All-Star player. The true Mirotic will likely perform somewhere between where he's been this year and where we've seen him in the past. I think that player can still help the Jazz, particularly with his ability to put pressure on the defense from the perimeter.
What's most exciting about the potential pairing is Niko's reported interest in playing with the Jazz, primarily because of Quin Snyder's offense and ability to get the most out of his players. I'm intrigued in what Mirotic could bring to Utah. Looking around the league at what the market has to offer — and considering Mirotic's no-trade clause in his contract — it seems that a trade to the Jazz is likely.