The NBA’s best only ended up better on Thursday, with the Milwaukee Bucks acquiring power forward Nikola Mirotic from the New Orleans Pelicans.

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Zach Lowe were the first to report that Mirotic was headed to Milwaukee, and the 27-year-old should fit right in with the team’s potent three-point attack.

When the trade is official, it will be a three-team trade between the Bucks, Pelicans, and Detroit Pistons, with the Bucks sending center Jason Smith and small forward to the Pelicans. Milwaukee acquired Johnson in a trade Wednesday that sent power forward/center Thon Maker to Detroit, but since this trade need a third-team to work, the Pistons ended up joining the trade just to make everything work under the NBA’s rules.

Per various media reports, there are expected to be four second-round picks in the deal, with only one of the second-rounders being Milwaukee’s original pick. The other three picks are coming from the Washington Wizards and the Denver Nuggets, with the Wizards suppling two of the picks. In October, the Bucks acquired a future second-round draft pick from Washington in a salary-dump trade for swingman Jodie Meeks, who ended up being waived by the Bucks.

Milwaukee already has one of the NBA’s best starting fives in Eric Bledsoe, Malcolm Brogdon, Khris Middleton, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and Brook Lopez, so it’s likely that Mirotic will slide into a sixth-man role off the bench for head coach Mike Budenholzer. Having a consistent scorer like Mirotic, who is averaging a career-best 16.7 points per game this season in a bench role will be instrumental for a team that’s one weakness appeared to be a lack of consistent bench scoring.

In-addition to averaging the previously mentioned career-best 16.7 points per game this season, Mirotic is also averaging career-bests in minutes per game (28.9), rebounds per game (8.7), and three-point field goal attempts per game (2.7). It would be unsurprising to see that 2.7 per game metric for Mirotic uptick in Budenholzer’s offense that generates the most wide-open threes per game in the NBA at 21.9 attempts from distance. Per HoopsHype, Mirotic is shooting 40% this season on three-point shots that are defined as “open.”

Mirotic, who is making $12.5 million this season, will be an unrestricted free agent this summer, with fellow Bucks players Bledsoe, Brogdon, Middleton, and Lopez also expected to be on the open market as well. However, Milwaukee now posses Mirotic’s bird rights, which will allow general manager Jon Horst to exceed the salary cap to re-sign Mirotic if there is mutual interest on both sides in getting a deal done.

While the trade deadline has officially passed, the Bucks still have an open roster spot, which means they will certainly be players in the contract buyout market that is expected to feature players such as Wayne Ellington, Robin Lopez, Frank Kaminsky, Chandler Parsons, Pau Gasol, JR Smith, Frank Kaminsky, and Markieff Morris.

Milwaukee (40-13), will play the Dallas Mavericks in Dallas tomorrow before returning to Milwaukee to host the Orlando Magic Saturday night on the second night of a back-to-back.

Photo: Sean Gardner/Getty Images

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