The Pelicans acquired forward Nikola Mirotic and a second-round draft pick from the Bulls for center Omer Asik, guards Jameer Nelson and Tony Allen, and a first-round pick. The trade, announced by both teams late Thursday afternoon, comes less than a week after New Orleans lost All-Star DeMarcus Cousins for the season because of a left Achilles tear – and with the Pelicans still in the playoff picture. Mirotic has averaged 16.8 points and 6.4 rebounds since missing the first 23 games this season because of two broken bones in his face stemming from a fight in practice with Bobby Portis. The altercation soured Mirotic on playing for Chicago, and the Bulls were looking to accommodate his request to be traded. John Paxson, the Bulls’ executive vice president of basketball operations said: “Niko’s representatives were consistent over the last several months that they wanted him moved. They never backed off of that stance one bit. The draft asset that we acquired in this deal was far and away the best that we got. It’s just consistent with the direction, the plan that talked about. As we mapped out what Niko would be looking for financially, especially, that wasn’t part of our timeline. We now have a situation where we’re invested in these young guys. Our focus remains on the growth and development of them”. Nelson has averaged 5.1 points and 3.6 assists in 43 games for New Orleans. Allen averaged 4.7 points before a broken leg sidelined him for 22 games. He returned to the active roster this week but did not play in Tuesday night’s loss to Sacramento. Asik has averaged 1.3 points and 2.6 rebounds in 14 games this season. Paxson said acquiring another first-round draft choice fits the plan of retooling the roster that was put in motion when Chicago traded Jimmy Butler to Minnesota. New Orleans had been seeking to unload the 7-foot Asik, who has struggled with his health and has been unable to return to his form from earlier in his career since the Pelicans signed him to a five-year, $58 million contract that would expire after next season if a team option is not picked up. Mirotic is due $12.5 million next season, but that becomes easier for the Pelicans to absorb now that Asik is off their books. He was due about $12 million next season. As part of Thursday’s trade, Chicago will have the right to swap its 2021 second-round pick with New Orleans’ own 2021 second-round pick. In a corresponding roster move, the Bulls waived veteran wing player Quincy Pondexter, a former Pelicans player who has struggled with knee injuries for most of the past three seasons.
The Jazz could be moving multiple players prior to the NBA trade deadline. With Rodney Hood already on the trading block, another veteran could be on the move. Joe Johnson is reportedly looking to be traded out of Utah. Johnson could be a buyout candidate if the Jazz don’t find a suitor for him by the Feb. 8 deadline. It’s unclear what the market would be on a player of Johnson’s caliber. The veteran guard has seen his playing time dip over the course of the past two seasons. Johnson averaged just 23.6 minutes per contest last season and 22.0 minutes this season. Throughout the 2017-18 campaign, Johnson is averaging 7.3 points and 3.4 rebounds while shooting 42.2 percent from the field. Johnson is currently in his 16th NBA season so his All-Star years are definitely behind him. However, the Arkansas alum still can provide a veteran scoring punch off the bench for a contending team. It’ll be interesting to see if the Jazz find a suitor for Johnson.
Two-time NBA All-Star Stephon Marbury told ESPN that he is at peace with his 22-year professional basketball career ending in China on Feb. 11 — just days before he turns 41 years old. The three-time CBA champion says he is “tired” and plans to return to his offseason home in Los Angeles after his finale in China. While Marbury also plans to stay in shape — “just in case” an NBA team calls this season — he says he’s “at peace” with his pro career ending in China. Marbury said he believes his entire basketball résumé is worthy of an induction into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame as an international candidate. Marbury said: “My numbers are Hall of Fame. That’s first. You look at guys who have never won championships on the globe, they are in the Hall of Fame. Two, what I have done to help basketball globally to bridge the gap from America to China, with China being one of the main components on the Earth for basketball, that right there alone should bridge that gap”.
With the Lakers planning on clearing out salary cap space for this summer, moving Randle and Clarkson would be necessary in securing requisite cap room to pursue two superstars. One question that has gone unanswered in regards to Randle is what teams would be interested in trading for him. One team that may be interested is his hometown Dallas Mavericks. The Mavericks will reportedly target Randle in the coming days ahead of the trade deadline: The Dallas Mavericks continue to pop up with regards to Labissière, although Mavericks sources said they value first round picks too greatly to pull the trigger. Those same sources pegged Lakers forward Julius Randle as a preferred target and where the Mavs will likely focus efforts in the coming days. Labissière could become a bigger option if the Lakers continue to not engage on the idea. The Lakers are likely looking for expiring contracts and draft picks in any deals and the Mavericks offer both. Most notably big man Nerlens Noel and his expiring deal match up perfectly with Randle’s salary. But the Lakers would certainly want a draft pick with that as well, and as Kyler noted, Dallas values their first-round picks. Randle has been one of the Lakers most consistent players this season and has really stepped up recently. Over the last five games he is averaging 18.4 points and 10.2 rebounds. The Mavericks having eyes for Randle makes sense as they are looking to rebuild around their young point guard Dennis Smith Jr. as well as Harrison Barnes. Whether talks heat up over the next week remains to be seen, but the Lakers will be a team to watch as is usually the case.