Stuck in their worst stretch of the season, the Jazz may be headed for a roster shakeup.
The Salt Lake Tribune has confirmed that Utah is engaged in talks with the Chicago Bulls on a deal that would bring power forward Nikola Mirotic to Utah. Jazz forward Derrick Favors has been discussed as a potential piece that would go to Chicago, according to multiple sources.
Other reports Tuesday suggest the Bulls want a first round pick ascompensation for Mirotic, something they have inquired the Jazz about.
Nothing is done on either side, but talks are past the preliminary stage and getting serious. ESPN.com first reported Utah’s interest in Mirotic on Monday.
Mirotic signed with the Bulls this past summer as a restricted free agent. According to league rules, he can’t be traded until Jan. 15. Mirotic also has a no-trade clause in his contract. But multiple reports suggest he is interested in waiving that in order to join the Jazz.
The Bulls could potentially get around the no trade clause by exercising the team option on the second year of Mirotic’s contract. But that move would be risky, because part of his value is that his contract is expiring, essential for clearing cap space.
Favors and Mirotic make almost the same amount of money, which means a straight up deal would work for both teams. Favors is averaging 12.5 points and 6.8 rebounds per game and has played in 38 of a possible 40 games this season after struggling with injuries last season.
But it’s obvious he and starting center Rudy Gobert have issues co-existing in the same frontcourt. Favors may be better suited for center in coach Quin Snyder’s offense, which means he’s emerged as an obvious trade candidate. The NBA’s trade deadline this season is February 8.
Mirotic, a polarizing figure on the trade market, brings strengths and weaknesses.
On one hand, he projects as the shooting power forward the Jazz desperately need. Mirotic has played in 17 games this season, starting three. In that time, he’s averaging 17.4 points and seven rebounds per game. He’s shooting 46 percent from 3-point range and he’s developed his game off the dribble and in the post enough to balance his spot-up shooting from the perimeter.
If the Jazz trade for him, Mirotic would give Donovan Mitchell and Rodney Hood another complementary scorer, and would provide the Jazz with much-needed offensive spacing.
On the other hand, Mirotic is pedestrian, at best, defensively. He has also never averaged more than 11.8 points per game in a season, which suggests his scoring output this season could be an outlier. He also missed much of the first month of the season when he suffered a facial fracture in a practice altercation with Bulls teammate Bobby Portis.
A trade for Mirotic doesn’t come without risks. At the same time, the Jazz have to do something to inject life into a season that is spiraling out of control.
Golng into Wednesday night’s games against the Wizards in Washington, Utah is 16-24. The Jazz have lost 13 of their last 16 games. They are 3-17 on the road and they are in the 10th spot in the Western Conference, 4 1/2 games out of the eighth and final playoff spot.
The Jazz need another consistent scorer, and Mirotic could fill that role. The Jazz have two games remaining on their current road trip, then return home to face the Indiana Pacers on Monday at Vivint Smart Home Arena.