Why is this man smiling? I’ll tell you. John Paxson is smiling because there is a chance that Nikola Mirotic might be in a Chicago Bulls uniform next year. Notice I said might. He called a buyout of Mirotic’s contract “a significant issue for one year.” His partner in crime Gar Forman called the situation “prohibitive”. They both say that Mirotic will be a Bull eventually. Okay everyone listen. A few weeks back, I wrote an article about Nikola Mirotic, the much heralded player overseas that the Chicago Bulls have the rights to. The Real Madrid player is by all accounts supposed to be coming to play for the Bulls next season. I compared him to Rudy Fernandez, a player that spent a few years in the NBA before going back overseas. Man, I did not know how many people was following this dude. Since I came to this website, that article had the highest page view total BY MILES. So I got intrigued, what does this guy have that has set the world on its ear? So I decided Pippen Aint Easy is going deep, deep, deep undercover to study and research this guy and figure out if it is really smart for the Bulls to mortgage their future to get this man into uniform. IF they can get him into uniform.
Let me preface everything by saying, in Europe this guy is a BEAST! He led Real Madrid to a championship in the Copa Del Rey tournament a couple of weekends back defeating Barcelona. He took the MVP honors dropping 17 points and 11 rebounds in the deciding game. For the tournament that spanned three games Mirotic tallied 16 points and corralled 6 rebounds. He has cemented his status as the best young talent in Europe. No issues there. We are all in agreement. Here are the issues.
1) How are the Chicago Bulls going to get Nikola Mirotic over here?
Trust me, the Bulls management team is trying to do two things. One, they are trying to clear enough space to sign Mirotic and two, they are trying to get him over here the cheapest way possible. Luol Deng was in no danger of being resigned Pippen Peoples. The lowball number of 10 million a year that they offered Deng wasn’t going to be accepted. Management knew that so that cleared 20 million off the books. Carlos Boozer is not getting traded on Trade-Away-Thursday. So what, the Bulls want nobody’s contract coming back to the team (unless your name is LeBron James.) So then they can clear Boozer’s 16.8 million dollars of the books. If they get lucky and trade Mike Dunleavy away for some clay bricks and a soda, guess what? Roughly 13 million of tax space. Pay attention because here’s where everything gets tricky. Usually when you watch the NBA draft, teams draft European players and let them stay overseas so they can develop. That development is for free because they do not have to pay them, they just keep the rights to the player. That’s what happened when the Bulls traded for his rights from Houston wayyyy back in 2011. Back in those days he was buried on the bench. Thanks to some ridiculous work ethic (a trait Tom Thibodeau would like) he worked his way from being a practice player and towel waver to a dominant force in all of Europe. Now that he’s a star, now the Bulls have to pony up some dollars now. The buyout by some reports fluctuate between three to four million to get Mirotic out of his contract. Here’s a figure that does not fluctuate, the Bulls can only pay 600,000. Any more than that will count against the salary cap. The Bulls can however offer Nikola a large first year salary that would count against the buyout. Naturally we can all assume that Real Madrid is NOT going to pack the man’s bags and yell out “Don’t forget to write” and wave bye-bye while the plane leaves. Mirotic made a reported 4.4 million this past season which will be hiked to seven to eight million the next season. This is about money. If the Bulls can give Mirotic only the mid-level exception, that will be a pay cut. Not sure that Mirotic will come over for that.
Right now I pretty sure Nikola is living the high life. His team won the championship. He’s the MVP, plus he’s up for a big pay raise. Two things come into play here. One, how badly does Mirotic want to play in the NBA and leave the good life in Spain and Two, did the Chicago Bulls bring their checkbook because it is going to cost. Oh by the way, the Bulls can’t sit on this for too long because Jimmy Butler’s contract extension is coming up. Does anyone hear a clock ticking, or is that just me?
In part two of the breakdown that is Nikola Mirotic, Pippen Aint Easy will go into the strengths of Mirotic and how he can help the Bulls on both ends of the floor.