According to a Spanish newspaper report covering Real Madrid, Nikola Mirotic will decide on his future soon. Real Madrid doesn't expect to keep him, but the price tag mentioned in his leaving is significant.
The original article, if you read Spanish, is here.
However, a Spanish reader did some work to translate here.
- The president of Real Madrid is personally conducting Mirotic extension in Europe. Note: The president rarely does that.
- Everybody is expecting Niko to leave as he wants to play in the NBA.
- He has nothing left to prove in Europe and he feels he is ready to take the next step.
- The article says Niko will have a decision soon as the pressure from both sides (Real/Bulls) is bothering him.
- Article says the Bulls could go as high as 10mm to sign Niko and Real cant compete with that.
Now the most important note about the article is the Bulls potentially going as high as 10 million to sign him in the off-season. My speculative guess is this is Real Madrid covering it's bases when preparing fans for the idea that he might leave.
10 million is pretty close to the most cap room the Bulls can realistically have right now, so when they say the Bulls could go as high as 10 million, that's probably as high as they could go.
It's possible the Bulls have pre-negotiated with Nikola but unlikely they'd commit to any such plan or get to the phase they are making promises. Especially given they don't know what other opportunities may come to them in free agency.
What has become clear watching the Bulls play without Boozer is that Nikola Mirotic likely upgrades the roster immediately next year if he comes over. There's always some risk with a European transfer, but his defense can't be any worse than Boozer's and even if his offense lacks the potency Chicago hopes for, the extra floor spacing will help the team tremendously.
As I've noted in the past, if the Bulls were to give Nikola Mirotic five million per season for three years, it would become the richest first contract an international player has ever signed (in terms of money per year) in his first deal in the US.
Maybe that Nikola wants more, but I'm not sure the Bulls have a lot of incentive to offer more. Much will depend on whether Boozer is amnestied or whether the Bulls work the trade lines and attempt to stay above the cap line so that they have more exceptions to use.
Of course whether or not they can sign Nikola with just the five million dollars may trigger which option they choose as well. If the Bulls amnesty Boozer, sign Nikola, and sign Augustin it won't likely be viewed as a big win for the franchise. However, a team of:
PG: Rose, Augustin
PF: Gibson, Mirotic
Has seven of the nine pieces you'd want answered for a playoff roster. Tony Snell still has potential to fill in as one of those pieces as well if he can improve his game.
The Bulls will likely have two first rounders to add to the equation to fill in the depth. I'd suggest their odds of getting one additional piece with those two picks are very high.
Say they use six million on Mirotic and three million on Augustin, they'd then likely have a couple million left in cap room plus the room exception to bring in two more guys at above the veteran minimum to help fill out the roster as well.
Given the Bulls basically need a reserve wing and a reserve center, and have one guy on the roster (Snell) who looks like he can compete for a rotation player slot in one of those positions already, that doesn't seem like a big ask to fill out the depth of the team.
Of course, this off-season will look disappointing on the surface, the Bulls will again have "failed to make the big move", but their big move options really don't exist as much as some fans/writers would like to imply.
Assuming LeBron, Wade, and Bosh stick in Miami, Chicago's only true FA target is Melo whom they don't really like all that much anyway and aren't likely to blow up the roster to get with cap room. I believe Chicago would try and work a S&T for Melo, but the odds of NY cooperating aren't so high.
In the end, Carmelo dreams are a much, much bigger long shot than the 2010 plan to sign LeBron. It could happen, but there are many barriers since the Bulls don't have enough salary space to offer Melo a max deal. Even clearing Gibson off the roster has Melo taking a pay cut.
The depth plan isn't so bad as you think
Imagine if in 2010 the Bulls has signed more guys to smaller shorter contracts rather than reaching for Boozer because he was all that was left. Do you think the team would be better or worse than it is right now?
In the end, there aren't guys worth gambling for with huge contracts in this free agency class. Not the way the Bulls would be forced to gamble anyway. Melo's worth a big deal, but he'll be looking for a 20+ million dollar deal, and I don't know that he's really a super max caliber guy given that teams haven't really had much success with him and his lack of team play.
He's also never been an elitely conditioned athlete by NBA standards and is crossing the 30 barrier. Don't be surprised if a four year deal with Melo starts to look pretty crappy in three years. I think if you could get him, even at that price, you'd have to do it, but it's not the no brainer fans think.
Lance Stephenson will likely get matched by Indiana, and I'm not sure he's so good that I leave Mirotic in Europe for another year given that it might coerce him into another long term non-buy-out friendly contract.
Luol Deng might be the next best guy, but I don't see him considering us, and I certainly would rather bring Mirotic over than bring Deng back. I'm very curious to see what he gets in free agency now. I think his stint in Cleveland will really hurt his value. A guy who's supposed to bring wins with his intangibles has seen his old team continue winning at a higher rate after his exit and his new team flailing more since he came.
I don't think either of those things are related to Deng directly, but clearly he's not providing the impact on winning he's credited for either. Signing him to a big money deal now would remind me of Richard Jefferson getting 40 million from the Spurs when it was clear he wasn't really worth it.
In short, if initial talks with NY on a Melo S&T don't go anywhere, I'd bank on the Bulls making Nikola Mirotic their primary off-season acquisition, and while that isn't as sexy as we'd hope, it's likely a better long term plan than the alternative gambles available.