Has Nikola Mirotic Made Chicago Bulls Elite Offensively?


The Nikola Mirotic experiment is still early in its process, but the results have been encouraging so far. He has added extra spacing to an offense that at times looked like a clogged toilet last year. Joe Johnson didn’t remember Mirotic’s name after the Chicago Bulls thumped JJ’s Brooklyn Nets, but something tells me he’ll pay better attention to the scouting report next time Nikola plays them.

“I can’t remember No. 44’s name, but he got it going a little bit,” Johnson said to the Chicago Tribune afterward.

Mirotic had 18 points and nine rebounds in the game, and he led all Bulls players in plus-minus for the first two games of the season. Chicago’s loss to the Detroit Pistons on Friday night notwithstanding, there is hope for the future. New head coach Fred Hoiberg has decided to bring Joakim Noah off the bench instead of Nikola. This is a move that clearly had the support of management, but it will be interesting to see if there is any backlash to Hoiberg saying that Noah was the one who approached him about being a reserve player. This seemed to be undermined by a report from ESPN’s Nick Friedell.

One player who isn’t mad about Mirotic’s approach is Derrick Rose. He clearly enjoys the spacing that the second-year player provides, and it will be revealing to observe how they continue to gel together.

“We need Niko to play the way he has been playing,” Rose said. “There’s no way you can play him. With the freedom he has, he’s able to take any shot he wants. He’s learning the NBA game. I love his effort on the defensive end. He’s at least trying a little bit better.”

Derrick’s comments about defense are telling, because it will be on this end that Mirotic must prove himself after some lack of effort at times last season. Hoiberg believes that Nikola is ready for the challenge defensively and showed that against Kevin Love in the season opener.

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“It’s great,” the head coach said. “He took it personal on that first possession when Love kind of buried him. And he battled the heck out of him the rest of the night and did a really good job on him. He realizes how important he is to be on the floor and a big part of that is being able to defend his position.”

The challenge has now been issued to Mirotic, and we should know whether he has stepped up to the plate by around New Year’s Eve. You can’t help but feel bad for Noah. He was, after all, an MVP candidate not too long ago, but the writing was on the wall as soon as Tom Thibodeau was dismissed as coach. Hoiberg has been solid so far; however, it is a long season and things can change quite quickly. Rose should continue to develop more comfort as the swelling goes down in his eye, and hopefully he is seeing less than three baskets sometime soon. His play against the Cavaliers, especially considering his double vision was impressive to watch, but the key thing for Rose will be the health of his legs. If his knees and ankles stay in good shape, then it matters little if he is playing with triple or even quadruple vision.

Next: 5 Takeaways From Bulls Opening Night Win Vs. Cavs

Keep an eye on how disciplined the Bulls play in the next month, because they could put some distance between themselves and other elite teams in the conference by outplaying poorer squads in the early season. This could help Chicago have home court during a crucial playoff series, and that could end up swinging a must-win game. The Bulls will become an elite team offensively if Mirotic can continue stepping up to the plate. Let’s see if he can keep this thing rolling.