The Chicago Bulls paved the way to potentially acquiring coveted European star Nikola Mirotic on Tuesday, Jan. 7, trading veteran forward Luol Deng to the Cleveland Cavaliers for Andrew Bynum and three draft picks in a cost-cutting move with the future in mind.
The team's official Twitter account revealed the news:
Chicago, currently 14-18 and in sixth place in the Eastern Conference playoff standings, owns Mirotic's draft rights from 2011, but will likely face several obstacles in an effort to bring the 6'9" scorer to the Windy City.
However, given Chicago's depleted roster and Mirotic's seemingly limitless potential, the 22-year-old would be a worthwhile gamble for the Bulls.
According to ESPN.com's Brian Windhorst, the Bulls plan to waive Bynum immediately, which "will enable them to get below the luxury tax threshold, which, combined with the savings from not having to pay Deng the balance of his $14.3 million salary, will save the team more than $20 million."
With the trade saving Chicago a pretty penny, the Bulls can now look to invest in Mirotic, who's currently setting Europe ablaze with Real Madrid. The Spanish forward, who can score from almost anywhere on the court, is averaging 14.5 points per game on roughly 60 percent shooting from both the field and beyond the arc this season.
Sporting News' Sean Deveney breaks down the challenge and potential gamble for the Bulls:
Getting Mirotic, who turns 23 next month, to Chicago was never going to be easy, though, not while he is playing for a stable European powerhouse like Real Madrid. Mirotic has a generous contract on hand from Real Madrid that pays him 3.5 million Euros, which, at the current exchange rate, is $4.7 million. The rumor was even floated last month that Real Madrid would offer Mirotic an extension, which would make it all the more difficult for the Bulls to bring him to the NBA.
Although acquiring Mirotic is sure to cost Chicago, the need trumps the price tag.
For a team that currently ranks dead last in the NBA in scoring offense (91.3 points per game) and second-worst in team field-goal percentage (.422), Mirotic's offensive prowess would be a welcome addition.
That's not to say Mirotic will be a 60 percent shooter with the Bulls, but his overall range and versatility will provide them with a unique and much-needed weapon.
Defensively, the Bulls rank among the league's elite, allowing under 93 points per game and 43 percent shooting from opponents. While Deng's absence will certainly impact them on that side of the ball, acquiring a gifted scorer in Mirotic to pair with former league MVP Derrick Rose in 2014-15 and beyond would more than fill the void.
HOOPSWORLD's Steve Kyler is among the majority that like Mirotic as an NBA prospect, but don't believe he's worth a lucrative deal:
But while there are no guarantees that Mirotic will pan out in the NBA, the Bulls are one of few teams with an identity that are just a few pieces away from contending for a championship.
Assuming Rose can get healthy and return to an All-Star level at some point in the future, Chicago has the coaching and system in place to be successful in a watered-down Eastern Conference.
As a franchise in the business of winning championships, the Chicago Bulls understand better than anyone that success doesn't come without risk.
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