5 questions in the wake of the Bulls' Nikola Mirotic trade
The Nikola Mirotic to New Orleans trade that fell apart Tuesday?
Well, someone found a roll of duct tape and pieced it back together.
Mirotic officially was traded to the Pelicans on Thursday, along with a 2018 second-round pick.
In return, the Bulls get a first-round pick from New Orleans, plus ex-Bulls center Omer Asik, shooting guard Tony Allen and point guard Jameer Nelson. The Bulls also get the right to swap second-round picks in 2021.
Most likely, the Bulls will get New Orleans' first-rounder this year. It is top-five protected in 2018 and top-eight protected in 2019, according to reports. As of Thursday, the Pelicans' pick would be No. 17.
The Bulls released forward Quincy Pondexter to make room for the three new players.
Here are a few more relevant questions in the wake of this deal:
Q: Why did the trade go through Thursday when it fell apart two days earlier?
A: That answer is simple. New Orleans agreed to take on the second year of Mirotic's contract, worth $12.5 million. Technically, the Bulls exercised the option before making the trade.
Since Mirotic was on a one-year deal and had Larry Bird rights at the end of this season, he could veto any trade. When the Bulls officially added the second season, the no-trade clause disappeared. This is all part of the NBA's collective-bargaining agreement.
Q: What's going to happen to the players acquired by the Bulls?
A: Well, none of them fit into the rebuilding plan. But Bulls executive vice president John Paxson said Asik and Nelson would meet the team in Los Angeles and undergo physicals. With Kris Dunn still sidelined with a concussion, the Bulls might see how Nelson, who turns 36 on Feb. 9, looks in a red uniform.
"Jameer has been a solid pro all of his career," Paxson said. "There's value in that having him around the team, so we're going to be patient."
Allen hasn't played since Dec. 10 because of a non-displaced left-fibula fracture, so the Bulls might wait until the trade deadline passes on Feb. 8, but he almost certainly will be waived. Nelson might be, as well.
Asik is under contract for $11.9 million next season, then has a $3 million buyout for 2019-20. The Bulls will keep him around and hope to use him in a trade next year since he essentially has an expiring contract. He played sparingly for New Orleans this season.
Q: Why were the Bulls so anxious to trade Mirotic?
A: Part of it is he has similar skills as Lauri Markkanen and Bobby Portis. Part of it is the Bulls didn't think he was a great fit in the locker room. When they signed him to the two-year deal just before training camp, they did it with a trade in mind. Otherwise, he probably would have signed a longer deal.
After coming back from facial fractures suffered in the Oct. 17 practice altercation with Portis, Mirotic was the Bulls' leading scorer and helped turn the season around after the 3-20 start. So no one can say Mirotic was bad for the bottom line.
It's possible this will turn out to be a move the Bulls regret, but they were very happy to get a first-round pick to bolster the rebuilding project.
"We've got to look long term," Paxson said. "As we mapped out what Niko would be looking for financially going out, that wasn't a part of our timeline. We now have a situation where we're invested in these young guys. Our focus remains on growth and development of them.
"This is consistent with what we set out to do on draft night (when the Bulls traded Jimmy Butler)."
Q: Did the altercation with Portis lead to this trade in any way?
A: Hard to say, since Mirotic has been so reluctant to give any direct answers about the altercation. He did talk a few weeks ago about wishing he could play alongside Markkanen.
"What I'll tell you is Niko's representatives were consistent over the last several months that they wanted him moved," Paxson said. "They never backed off that stance one bit. I'm sure given everything we heard throughout this entire process, this satisfies what he wanted.
"More than that, it satisfies what we wanted to get out of it in moving him."
Q: Are more trades coming before the Feb. 8 deadline?
A: Of course they will keep making calls, but nothing seems particularly likely. Robin Lopez still has another year on his contract worth $14.4 million, which makes him difficult to trade. The Bulls like Lopez as a team leader, so it would be no surprise to see him back with the team next season.
Whether any team likes Justin Holiday or Jerian Grant enough to give the Bulls something useful in return, that's possible but seems to fall on the unlikelier side.
Markkanen in skills challenge:
Bulls rookie Lauri Markkanen was chosen to participate in the Taco Bell Skills Challenge at All-Star Weekend.
The other participants are Brooklyn's Spencer Dinwiddie, who played for the Bulls last season; New York's Kristaps Porzingis, the defending champion; Philadelphia's Joel Embiid, Boston's Al Horford, Denver's Jamal Murray, the Clippers' Lou Williams and Utah rookie Donovan Mitchell.
The slam-dunk contest will feature Orlando's Aaron Gordon, Indiana's Victor Oladipo, the Lakers' Larry Nance Jr., and Dallas rookie Dennis Smith Jr.
The 3-point contest participants are Golden State's Klay Thompson, Houston's Eric Gordon, Washington's Bradley Beal, Oklahoma City's Paul George, Toronto's Kyle Lowry, Phoenix's Devin Booker, Miami's Wayne Ellington and the Clippers' Tobias Harris.
• Twitter: @McGrawDHBulls.