What the Bucks traded for
In Mirotic, Milwaukee has landed one of the NBA’s best shooting big men. Not only that, but the Bucks have acquired the soon-to-be 28-year-old in the midst of a career-year.
A highly touted player prior to arriving in the NBA due to his success in Europe with Real Madrid, Mirotic has established himself as a highly skilled role player in the world’s best basketball league in the years since.
This season, Mirotic is averaging 16.7 points, 8.3 rebounds and 1.0 assists, while shooting 36.8 percent from deep on 7.2 three-point attempts per contest. In many ways, that willingness and accuracy to let fly from deep unlocked various options and driving lanes for New Orleans’ other players since he arrived in the Big Easy last season.
As a frontcourt partner alongside one of the NBA’s most freakishly gifted players (Anthony Davis), Mirotic’s size helped to buoy the Pelicans’ offense.
Of course, if any of that sounds familiar, it’s because it should. Mirotic offered the Pelicans a lot of what Brook Lopez has been able to provide the Bucks with this season. As a result, Mirotic should make for both a seamless replacement for Lopez, as well as an option that provides a similar skill-set with an added sense of versatility.
Writing for the New Orleans Advocate last month, Scott Kushner described Mirotic in a fashion equally befitting of Lopez:
"” It’s not just hitting 3-pointers, but the confidence he has to shoot them, makes him such a weapon on a team light on traditional sharpshooters and long on creative interior scorers.”"
Continuing on that front, Kushner had other comments that draw to mind the influence the slow-moving Lopez has had on Milwaukee’s style of play this year:
"“While the Pelicans’ system is a fast-pace attack designed to feast in the paint, the not-so-swift, deep-shooting Mirotic is particularly valuable in it.”"
In other words, the first thing Mirotic will offer the Bucks is a big man capable of replicating many of the elements that have made Lopez so crucial to Milwaukee’s style of play.
Beyond that, though, Mirotic should also create real excitement in terms of how his differences with Lopez can boost the Bucks. Mirotic can be added to the mix of Giannis Antetokounmpo, D.J. Wilson and Ersan Ilyasova, as a forward capable of manning the middle in a small-ball lineup.
Realistically, Mirotic may never play the 5 spot for the Bucks, particularly when paired with Antetokounmpo, but his presence with any of those players will only further increase Milwaukee’s flexibility and ability to play fluidly in-game.
Budenholzer has also shown a penchant for bigger lineups, and with a matchup with the Raptors now including the prospect of facing a frontcourt of Kawhi Leonard – Serge Ibaka – Marc Gasol, Mirotic’s shooting could just as easily see him paired with Antetokounmpo and Lopez in Milwaukee’s own jumbo lineups.
Mirotic has a reputation as a sub-par defender, yet it’s even fair to argue that’s undeserved at this point. Writing for the Washington Post, Justin Willard did exactly that late last season, noting:
"“He has quick hands, generating a lot of steals for a power forward (1.6 per 100 possessions for his career), and he’s an excellent defensive rebounder, too, ranking 29th out of 275 players with at least 1,000 minutes played in percentage of defensive boards grabbed. He’s good in most team schemes, and he has shown a lot of skill in defending the pick and roll.”"
In short, Mirotic is incredibly skilled, an ideal fit for Milwaukee’s roster and style of play, and only serves to further enhance the Bucks’ existing versatility heading into the closing stretch of the season.