Yesterday when discussing trades, I noted that in order to get a star level player Nikola Mirotic would likely have to be included in any deal. For those who aren't following the news out of Europe, there's a reason why.
First two time winner of the rising star award.
MVP of the ACB league (and his team won the title that season)
Starting off this season top 5 in PER in both Euroleague and ACB league
NBA caliber body (6'10, 238)
Silky smooth outside jumper which should extend to the NBA three
Crafty inside game featuring great footwork and a variety of moves
Nikola Mirotic doesn't have a 40 inch vertical, but outside of freak athlete status, he has every other tool in the toolbox to become a great player in the NBA. While playing a different style of game, his floor in the NBA is likely around Andrea Bargnani or Danilo Gallinari. His ceiling [though unlikely] is closer to Dirk Nowitzki.
All signs point to his arrival this summer.
If the Bulls amnesty Carlos Boozer, something I'm growing less and less confident they will do as there simply isn't much upside in the move, then Nikola Mirotic will be the reason why they can get away with it. The Bulls can enter next season with him on the roster and expect 28 quality minutes right out of the gates.
His first season will likely contain some struggles as he adjusts to greater minute totals, more physicality, and a further three point line. However, Mirotic doesn't appear as soft as Bargnani, particularly mentally. He's a tough kid, who's played in a tougher domestic league along with Euroleague.
His PER through 5 games this season sits over 30 and is in the top five of both Euroleague and ACB. He's shooting well over 50% from the field in both competitions and is simply dominating the competition right now.
It's fair to say that Nikola Mirotic will be the most proven player to transition from Europe to the NBA since Luis Scola, and the Bulls will likely sign him to a three year 15 million dollar contract right out of the gates which will keep him on the roster at what likely becomes a bargain price for the next three seasons.
Do you give that up to pay Kevin Love or LaMarcus Aldridge closer to 20 million per season after new extensions? Do you give that up for Al Horford who's likely much better defensively and more physical but doesn't have the offensive ceiling?
Is a super stretch four the right player to attack the Miami Heat with?
These are the questions the Bulls front office will face, and they may already have come to the conclusion that the answer is no. For my part, I think I'm keeping Mirotic over Al Horford and LaMarcus Aldridge. For Kevin Love? I consider throwing him in.
That's the problem with trading high upside prospects. Two years from now, the preceding statement may look ridiculous in either direction. Mirotic could become no where near as valuable as any of those players, become their equal, or become vastly superior. For my part, I think his odds of making at least one NBA all-star appearance look pretty good.
I also like the way his skills will fit in with the Bulls present roster. One of the things Bulls fans complain about frequently is the lack of shooting. Jimmy Butler looks like a mainstay who won't add it any time soon. Getting a premier stretch four will add shooting while allowing Chicago to keep a wing player that's less of a shooter on the floor.
I've always felt a great team has at least one dangerous three point shooter on the floor and two more capable guys. Mirotic looks like the dangerous type, which means the bar for the wing positions drops to capable which seems far more likely to be fulfilled.
Imagine a scenario where the Bulls swap Luol Deng for Eric Gordon, slide Butler to SF, and have an elite stretch four. What does the offense look like now? Two ball handlers, (Rose/Gordon), two shooters (Gordon/Mirotic), tons of perimeter athleticism, and two of the best help defensive bigs in the NBA ready to man the middle [Gibson/Noah].
Ignoring the Gordon possibility, what does a Mirotic/Rose high pick and roll at the three point line look like defensively. Do you dare double Rose off of that with an elite three point shooter setting the pick? When was the last time Rose wasn't trapped off such a play?
Mirotic presents tantalizing possibilities for Chicago if he comes over and translates well. He presents tantalizing trade opportunities for Chicago as well if other teams in the NBA view him as an elite prospect.
The Bulls picked him up late in the draft simply because they had to wait three years to bring him over and few GMs have the luxury of waiting three years on a 1st round pick. On top of that, Mirotic has gone out and improved considerably each of those years since the draft showing that his upside was no fluke.
When he was drafted, he was another tall shooter who played well. Now he's an MVP, a champion, and one of the best players [possibly the best] in Europe.
If the Bulls trade for a star, Nikola Mirotic will likely have to be part of the deal, but they may fix their shooting problem and get a secondary scorer next year with no trades at all.