Overview: The Stretch Four Turned Benched Four
Before getting started, I want to let you know, I’m writing this article with a lot of bias. Nikola Mirotic was one of the most disappointing in-season acquisitions by the Milwaukee Bucks in recent memory. In my opinion, he has joined the likes of J.J. Redick, Michael Carter-Williams, and Gary Payton as mid-seasons acquisitions that have left a bad taste in my mouth. After acquiring Mirotic in mid-February, the power forward played in only 14 regular season games for the Bucks due to a finger and calf injury. When he was on the court, he averaged 11.6 points per game on close to 10 shots. He shot 41.5% from the field and 35.6% from three. These numbers made it his worst shooting stint since he played for the Bulls in 2016-17. With Milwaukee, his rebound numbers dropped as well. He averaged 5.4 boards per game, his lowest average since his rookie year five years ago. During the regular season, Mirotic failed to reach 10 rebounds in a game and failed to generate more than 23 points. The only number of his that remained consistent was his assists. He averaged 1.4 with the Bucks which is on point with his 1.3 career average. Finally, the last regular season statistic I want to talk about is Mirotic’s player efficiency rating. He had a PER of 16.2 which was only a point and a half better than Luol Deng’s PER with the Timberwolves this year. 7 years ago you would want to be compared to Luol Deng, but not anymore.
The playoffs was something out of a nightmare for Mirotic. He played in 14 out of a possible 15 games and started 8 of them. The one game he did not play in was Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals. Coach Bud simply could not play him because of his inability to hit shots consistently and because of the fact he was a major liability on defense. In the playoffs, Mirotic took about 8 shots a game, 5 of which were threes, and he shot an abysmal 37.6% from the field and 28.9% from deep. Without his shooting, Mirotic was not able to make an impact anywhere else on the floor. He only averaged 4 rebounds per game and had a defensive rating per 100 possessions of 104. This 104 was actually 3 points worse than Ersan Ilyasova’s playoff defensive rating. Lastly, Mirotic had the worst playoff PER of any Milwaukee Buck that played significant minutes in the postseason. The only players he was better than were Tony Snell, Sterling Brown, and DJ Wilson.
Highlight: Great Games
Nikola Mirotic’s highlights with the Bucks were the few great games he had during the regular season. On February 23rd against the Timberwolves, his second game with Milwaukee, we got the Mirotic we were promised. In only 18 minutes he put up 11 shots, shot 50% from three, and scored 17 points. Four days later, against the Kings, Mirotic had his best game as a Buck. In 27 minutes he made 5 of 8 threes on his way to 21 points. He also added his Milwaukee season high of 8 rebounds, 3 assists, and 2 blocks. His last game of the regular season the Bucks played against the Lakers. He scored 23 points on 14 shots in a win.
The lowest part of the season had to be when Mirotic was benched in the Eastern Conference Finals. He was supposed to be one of the new additions that would put Milwaukee on a championship level but instead, he was not in the lineup. Towards the end of the entire season, many Bucks fans wanted to see D.J. Wilson get the minutes that Mirotic was getting.
Mirotic came into Milwaukee with expectations that he would be the high volume scorer that the Bucks needed. He would have gotten a C grade because even though he was not what Milwaukee wanted, he may have been valuable somewhere else . However, his eventual benching in the playoffs and poor shooting percentages turned his grade into a D+.
Going Forward: Unrestricted Free Agent
Going into the summer, Mirotic is a UFA, meaning he can sign wherever he wants. The last two years he was making about $12.5 million dollars per year. A new contract for him will probably be 3-4 years for as little as $30 million or as much as $50 million. As a Bucks fan, I want teams who have shown interest in Mirotic like the Jazz and Pacers to overpay the forward.