When the Milwaukee Bucks traded for Nikola Mirotic in February, they were expecting an outside marksman who could step in and space the floor for bench units, stepping in alongside and in place of Giannis Antetokounmpo. Last year he joined the New Orleans Pelicans and was a part of a strong playoff run; the hope was that he could do the same in Wisconsin.
While Mirotic fit the system perfectly, his performance was not as dynamic as Jon Horst and the front office would’ve hoped. Although Mirotic got up a number of shots, including 3-pointers, he struggled to hit them in the later rounds of the playoffs. After shooting 37.5 percent in the first round, his 3-point percentage dropped to 34.4 percent against Boston and a woeful 19.2 percent against Toronto.
Struggling in a single playoff series does not make a player worthless, as Mirotic is a great shooting big who has proven himself over his career. He is a perfect fit for the Bucks’ system and would be a help to them next season.
With that being said, they will be hard-pressed to bring him back and retain Brook Lopez. The only viable way for the Bucks to bring back Lopez for more than the mid-level would be to open up some cap space, a move they appear to be working towards given their draft-day trade of Tony Snell.
Opening up that cap space means relinquishing the Bird rights to Mirotic, and given his value league-wide, he can’t be expected to return for one of the small exceptions the team will have available. Unless Lopez communicates he is leaving no matter what, the Bucks will need to make a decision between the two. Nothing against Mirotic, but Lopez is a more crucial part of the core to keep around.