The New Orleans Pelicans and Chicago Bulls are unable to complete a trade for forward Nikola Mirotic because Mirotic is awaiting his $12.5 million team option for the 2018-19 season to be exercised, league sources tell ESPN.
The Pelicans and Bulls were finalizing a package that included Omer Asik and a future first-round pick going to Chicago. Asik is owed nearly $25 million through the 2019-20 season.
Mirotic signed a two-year deal with the Bulls in August that included a team option that’s subject to the NBA’s one-year Bird provision.
For a trade to be completed, Mirotic would have to approve a deal that didn’t include a guarantee on his 2018-19 salary. Chicago and New Orleans wouldn’t need his permission if they elected to exercise his team option before completing the trade. So far, the Pelicans have resisted committing to that $12.5 million on next season’s payroll, league sources said.
If Mirotic were to approve the deal and Chicago didn’t pick up the option, Mirotic would have non-Bird rights, which means the Pelicans would have to use one of their exceptions to sign him as a free agent after declining his team option. Essentially, Mirotic loses full Bird rights by granting the trade.
Mirotic has played well for the Bulls, averaging 16.8 points and 6.4 rebounds. He missed the first 23 games of the season after teammate Bobby Portis knocked him out on Oct. 17 with a punch that left the young forward with a concussion and facial fractures.
The Pelicans are seeking to complement the roster after the recent season-ending Achilles injury to All-Star center DeMarcus Cousins.
ESPN’s Bobby Marks contributed to this report.