Milwaukee Bucks: Regrading the questionable Nikola Mirotic trade

NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA - MARCH 12: (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA - MARCH 12: (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images) /
1 of 3
Milwaukee Bucks: Nikola Mirotic, Minnesota Timberwolves: Tyus Jones, Derrick Rose
Feb 23, 2019; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports /

Any contending team worth their salt will try to add a piece at the trade deadline to help bolster their chances in a deep playoff run. The Milwaukee Bucks have been seen as contenders for three seasons now (the entirety of the Mike Budenholzer Era) and have made an addition in each of those three seasons, whether it be via trade or in the buyout market.

Last year, the team made what turned out to be a huge pickup in acquiring P.J. Tucker, which Dalton Sell recently regraded. The year before that, it was picking up veteran Marvin Williams, which was a fine move considering the low acquisition cost. However, in 2018-19, the Bucks made a splash in acquiring Nikola Mirotic in exchange for two players (Jason Smith and Stanley Johnson) and four draft picks (all second rounders).

More from Bucks News

Many at the time saw this as a massive win, including Adam McGee, who did the initial grades for the deal and gave it an A. In hindsight, the deal might look as great as we are over two years removed since the trade happened.

Before coming to Milwaukee, Mirotic had spent four seasons in the NBA and most of them with the Chicago Bulls. In 273 games, Mirotic scored 11.8 points per game, shot 35.7 percent from the 3-point line, and grabbed 5.7 rebounds per game in around 23 minutes a night. In 32 games with the New Orleans Pelicans before the trade that season, Mirotic was scoring a career-high 16.7 points per game and boasted a 59.1 percent true shooting.

He was expected to come in and add more shooting while also being a bigger body behind Brook Lopez off the bench. Although Mirotic wasn’t outright bad in his short time with the Bucks, he certainly did not live up to the expectations people had in mind for him.

With that being said, let us regrade the Mirotic deal.

The acquisition cost of the Nikola Mirotic trade for the Milwaukee Bucks

I won’t spend too much time on the financial aspect of this deal, considering it was relatively minor for the Bucks when looking at how it played out after the season.

Mirotic came to the Bucks on an expiring contract (a one-year contract) worth $8.05 million. The combination of Smith ($5.22 million) and Johnson ($2.54 million) was enough to fit Mirotic’s salary into their cap space. Mirotic then signed in Spain after the season, so there really weren’t any financial restrictions that ended up limiting the Bucks.

This trade is more interesting to look at from an acquisition cost standpoint, especially now that all four second-round picks have been used. The two players the Bucks moved to the Pelicans weren’t anything special. Smith played a combined 60 minutes over eight games between the two teams and hasn’t played in the NBA since. Johnson came to the Bucks in a trade with the Detroit Pistons for Thon Maker and was quickly rerouted to the Pelicans. He played in 18 games for New Orleans before signing with the Toronto Raptors in the offseason, where he’s now a solid role player.

Out of the four second-round picks used in the deal, only one of them belonged to Milwaukee originally, with the other three coming from various other trades. There was one pick in 2019, two in 2020, and one in 2021.

Here are the players that were selected with all four picks and the team they ended up with.

  • 2019: Jordan Bone, 55th overall
  • 2020: Elijah Hughes, 39th overall
  • 2020: Sam Merrill, 60th overall
  • 2021: Greg Brown, 43rd overall

Right off the bat, there isn’t a player that you’re upset the Bucks missed out on. In fact, they even ended up with one of the four players. As you all can assume, Merrill was sent to the Bucks in the Jrue Holiday deal. All three of the other players that were originally selected by the Pelicans were traded right after the draft.

Brown has yet to play an NBA game, but he’s with the Portland Trail Blazers now after being swapped for a future second-round pick. Bone and Hughes have played a combined 42 games, and it doesn’t appear as though they’ll become impact players.

The acquisition cost was low at the time, and it appears as though the Bucks haven’t missed out on any hidden gems — or at least one that will help the Pelicans in the case of Brown.