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) /
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Milwaukee Bucks: Nikola Mirotic, Toronto Raptors: Danny Green
May 19, 2019; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports /

The on-court fit of Nikola Mirotic with the Milwaukee Bucks

When the trade was announced, many saw the immediate fit with Mirotic and how he’d play with the Bucks. He was a stretch big who provided solid if unspectacular defense that could come in and help fill the minutes behind Lopez. He was also viewed as an upgrade over long-time Buck Ersan Ilyasova.

Mirotic immediately came in and played nearly 23 minutes per game and even started a few games. If you purely looked at Mirotic’s numbers in the regular season with the Bucks, you wouldn’t really bat an eye. His scoring obviously dipped from over 16 points with New Orleans to 11.6 per game with the Bucks, but that also came in six fewer minutes per game and a slight dip in usage. Both his 3-point percentage (35.6 percent) and true shooting (56.2 percent) also were lower than what he posted in New Orleans. But what he did with the Bucks was right around his career averages, so it’s not as if he fell off a cliff.

The bigger disappointment for the Bucks and Mirotic came when he suffered an injury to his thumb in mid-March and was forced to miss the remaining nine games of the regular season. It was a tough break for the team and the player as it’s already hard for a player to join a team mid-season, but then to take out nine games makes it all that much more difficult.

Luckily, Mirotic was available for the playoffs and played in all but one of the Bucks playoff games that year. He got off to a decent start, shooting 35.6 percent from three in their first nine playoff games. However, he shot only 46.4 percent on his 2-point attempts, and well, it only got worse from there.

Mirotic cratered in the Eastern Conference Finals against the Raptors. In five games (he was benched for the last game of the series), he shot 19.4 percent from deep on 31 total attempts. It somehow gets even worse too. 27 of his 31 total attempts were either open (closest defender four-to-six feet away) or wide open (over six feet away), and he made six of them. Yep, Mirotic shot 22.2 percent on open-to-wide-open triples, according to They dared him to shoot, and he just kept missing. When compared to Fred VanVleet’s 82.4 percent in the final three games of the series, according to Basketball Reference, it makes for some hilarious small sample size theater.

I’d be tempted to say Mirotic was affected by the hand injury, but he also shot near his career average in nine games before that. He just outright missed shots and that, along with a few other factors, cost the Bucks a chance to go to the Finals two years earlier.