With the news that Anthony Davis is seeking a trade from the New Orleans Pelicans, the NBA community’s twin engines of rumor and speculation began spinning into overdrive. After all, a 25-year-old MVP-caliber player only becomes available via trade maybe once in a generation.
In the wake of The Brow’s eventual departure, though, it makes sense that New Orleans would shift into full rebuild mode. On the January 28 episode of The Lowe Post, ESPN’s Zach Lowe said the following:
“Over the weekend, I had heard from two separate teams that [Nikola] Mirotic, [Julius] Randle, and [E’Twaun] Moore had all been made available for picks.”
While the Sixers no longer have the assets to get involved in the Anthony Davis sweepstakes (and no, a deal centered around Ben Simmons for Davis isn’t going to happen, stop trying to make fetch happen), they should absolutely target another current Pelican: Nikola Mirotic.
Although he sadly shaved his delightfully woolly beard, the 27-year-old Mirotic would be a perfect fit to fill out the Sixers’ starting lineup. A career 35.9 percent shooter from behind the arc (36.8 percent this season), Mirotic is willing to fire away at a high volume, taking over seven 3-point attempts per game this year. He would stretch the floor nicely for Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, with a bit more verve off the bounce and in post-up situations than your typical stretch four.
We know how much Embiid enjoys playing alongside a true stretch four. Remember his fond words on former teammate Ersan Ilyasova.
Earlier this week Embiid remembered his time playing with Ilyasova: "He was great, especially the pairing of both of us. I remember we had great times going back to that January month ... He's a great player, stretch four, he's actually really good defensively."— Jessica Camerato (@JessicaCamerato) February 28, 2018
Mirotic would be a younger, souped-up version of Ilyasova. While he’s not able to really spot a team minutes as a backup center like Ersan, the 6-foot-10 Mirotic isn’t afraid to fight on the interior. His 21.3 defensive rebounding percentage this season would be second on the Sixers behind Joel Embiid.
Beyond his on-court play, his contract situation also makes Mirotic a good fit for the Sixers. He is currently on the books for $12.5 million before becoming an unrestricted free agent this summer. As an expiring contract, Mirotic could help the Sixers see what they have in the Embiid-Simmons-Butler triumvirate, while maintaining flexibility for their last big free agency window.
Mirotic has been a bit banged up of late, recently missing about a month with an ankle injury, and now out again with a strained right calf. Maybe that serves to depress his market, but regardless, the Sixers only really need him ready to roll in April and May.
While Wilson Chandler would be the easiest player to slot into a trade for salary matching purposes, I wouldn’t put him on the table in a deal for Mirotic. Chandler has been playing much better of late, and sliding him back into a reserve role following a potential Mirotic acquisition would likely both increase his effectiveness and the team’s depth.
Instead, I would try to cobble together a package of Mike Muscala, Justin Patton, and Philadelphia’s own 2019 first round pick. New Orleans doesn’t take on any future contracts and recoups a first round pick to help rebuild post-Brow. The Sixers notably improve their rotation and keep their options open this summer. It’s a deal that benefits all parties involved. Make the call, Elton.