On Tuesday Feburary 7th, the Milwaukee Bucks traded for Nikola Mirotic in a three team trade that saw the Bucks sending away Stanley Johnson and Thon Maker. This trade was one of the highlights of the trade deadline, and left many people in the national media asking “Does this make the Bucks the best team in the NBA?”
The answer is “No”, because the Bucks were already the best team in the NBA before making this move, but many people covering the NBA in the National spotlight still fail to recognize that. That does not mean there was not room for improvement. Before the Wizards game on Wednesday night the Bucks were seeing glaring holes in their rotation from their back-up PF Ersan Ilyasova. With Ers going 6 straight games without a made basket. Thankfully he came back to life going 4-4 against the Wizards, but his play did raise legitimate concerns.
The Bucks acquired a guy who has the talent to start for most NBA teams on a nightly basis. In 32 games this season Mirotic averaged 16.7 points, 8.1 rebounds, 1.1 assists, .8 blocks and .7 steals a game with an average of 28.9 minutes a game with the Pelicans.
Mirotic and the Bucks could not be a better match made in heaven, with Nikola Mirotic’s shot chart being almost identical to the Bucks shot chart on the season; which for both is a lot of threes and a lot of lay-ups. On the defensive end he had the best defensive rating for any Pelican player on the season. Just don’t expect Nikola to do much play making, which is okay because it is probably best to leave that to Pros like Eric Bledsoe and Giannis.
Another thing that Mirotic brings to the Bucks bench is consistency. While the Bucks bench has been incredible this season, the contributing players have not always been the same with guys like Pat Connaughton and John Henson were intricate parts of the line-up to start the season and now Pat rides the pine and John is (probably) out draining corner threes in Cleveland.
As of late Mike Budenholzer has been rolling with Ersan no matter what, for better or for worse. Mirotic not only gives you another option at PF instead of a potentially struggling Ersan or going with small ball by playing D.J. Wilson, but more importantly he gives you a guy that you can rely on to help lead the second unit along side George Hill. I think that was a legitimate concern for many Bucks fans is can we rely on the bench in the playoffs? I am extremely confident that Mirotic is a guy you can lean on during the post-season.
Lastly, this move frees up a roster spot, which means that the Bucks might try and pick up another solid veteran free agent who got bought out at the deadline. What magic will Jon Horst pull out of his hat this time? Could Rolo (Robin Lopez) team up with his brother Brolo (Brooke Lopez) to help rule the east?
The Bucks knew that the Pelicans were having a fire sale on players, and short of pulling a miracle and getting Anthony Davis, the Bucks got the next best thing. A solid veteran big man who can give you 20+ minutes a night off the bench that will stretch the floor to make room in the lane for our MVP. I was very confident about the Bucks before this move and my confidence just shot through the roof after seeing this. Thank you Jon Horst and welcome to the Cream City Nikola!
(All stats via basketball-reference.com)