Well the Bulls did not make a trade on Trade-Away-Thursday. Carlos Boozer is back in his normal slot these days and the Bulls ARE STILL under the Mendoza line we call the salary cap. If you watched that “I’m gonna tell my Mama” beat down the Bulls put on the Denver Nuggets Friday night, you would think that all things are back to normal back in the United Center. But is it really? Denver basically played like they were playing on the cold LeClaire Court, scared of the streets of Chicago than looking like a NBA team playing in a NBA arena. Check for the recap of this game by my colleague Ashley Wijangco. It’s a good read. The stand pat stance that the Bulls are using means that the spotlight and coverage will increase on one guy…Nikola Mirotic. Nikola Mirotic is the player that Bulls management has used as a justification to trade Luol Deng to Cleveland. The player that management will use as the final factor to see if Carlos Boozer will be amnestied in the offseason. Nikola Mirotic has been a carrot that has been dangled in front of Bulls fans for months. He has been a justification. He’s been a excuse. He has been a reason that management has used for all decisions they have made in the past and will make up to this summer. Now Pippen Aint Easy is going deep, deep, deep undercover to see if Nikola Mirotic is WORTH mortgaging the Bulls future short term. Part one broke down what it will take for Mirotic to get in a Bulls uniform. There were many opinions both ways if he will show or not. Now Pippen Aint Easy will look at the strengths of Nikola Mirotic and and possibly answer some questions on how he can help the Bulls.
1) Can Mirotic help this team scoring the basketball?
I’m going to have ask all of you to do something very hard. I want you to ignore the offensive onslaught that the Bulls put on the Denver Nuggets. Let’s be honest, the Nuggets did not show up. The Bulls are DEAD LAST in scoring in the NBA averaging only 92 points a game. With the possible exception of Taj Gibson lately, no one really can get their own shot consistently. (If you are thinking Carlos Boozer, stop it. You have to WANT to get your own shot to be consistent. Plus he ‘s not going to be here if Mirotic shows up remember?) Mirotic at least coming in will probably be a floor spacer for the Bulls. Which is a good thing for the Bulls because these guys can’t shoot. At Real Madrid Mirotic scored in a variety of ways which shows that he is very fundamentally sound basketball player. He can score spotting up, cutting to the basket and finishing off pick and rolls. This is a huge plus for the Bulls because the offense is run through Joakim Noah who is a very willing passer. If you cut and work the offensive system, Noah will find you. Also, almost every team in the NBA has a version of the pick and roll (I’m still not sold on the Brooklyn Nets yet.) Nikola Mirotic has shown that he can finish at the rim and hit the jumper. If this happens it will help the offense flow more freely and take the pressure off the defense being almost perfect every night for the Bulls to win.
2) Truthfully, can this guy shoot straight?
In Europe, yes. Last year in the 2013-14 season while playing for Real Madrid in Spain, Mirotic shot 62% from the field. In Euroleague play he shot 53%. If he does this for the Bulls, they will retire his number. Like immediately. The Bulls need someone that won’t have opponents yelling “rebound!” or “Let’s run!” before the shot even goes up. I love Jimmy Butler to death, but when he or Tony Snell are outside of 20 feet and are going to shoot, sometimes I can almost hear their opponents thinking “sucker” every time they shoot. The one thing I do like about this guy is that he has confidence. I don’t care what you do whether it’s play basketball or monopoly, if you don’t have confidence, shut it down because you’re no good to anyone in the NBA. Mirotic is extremely confident and plays with a great amount of poise. With his excellent size (6-10 with a 7-1 wingspan) and a quick release we can be assured that his shot is not going to blocked very often, if at all. The question is, will the ball fall through the hoop from the outside?
3) Can the Bulls create the “Big 3″ of their own?
This question is asked literally and figuratively. It will be interesting to see if Mirotic can co-exist with Taj Gibson and Joakim Noah. Let’s start on the offensive end. The answer is a definite yes. Mirotic does needs work with his back to the basket. That is not a major issue in this instance because Gibson has a solid post game down low. With Mirotic’s shooting skill it opens up lanes for Noah to read the defense and have space to do what he needs to do. Defensively, this guy is going to fit in just great. In Europe Mirotic wasn’t born with entitlement of being “The One”. This guy WORKED. As I said in part one of this report, he was buried on the bench in 2011 and now he’s the top guy in all of Europe. If he comes to Chicago with that same work ethic, Coach Thibodeau, Joakim Noah and the rest of the Bulls will adore him. To stay in the NBA you need to work, if he does that he already has a leg up on being successful in the NBA. Another thing that will help him with the Bulls frontline line-up is his versatility. He can play alongside different types of frontcourt players playing the four or five position. The NBA is all about matchups. These days teams need to have a skilled big man who can space the floor and attack players in mismatch situations. Mirotic is the guy if he pans out.
Pippen Aint Easy is not done. Every player has his flaws. In part three in this series will break down the weaknesses to Nikola Mirotic’s game.