Nikola Mirotic drawing rave reviews in camp

Nikola Mirotic drawing rave reviews in camp

While much of the talk, particularly from me, about the Bulls rookies has focused on Doug McDermott, Nikola Mirotic has drawn early praise in training camp.

Sam Smith tweets:

Bulletin! Thibs gushes about rookie: "I thought (Mirotic) had a really good 1st day. Then after watching film, it was better than I thought."

Thibs and Nikola: "He’s going to be a good player. He has a lot of pride and great work ethic. I like who he is."

Thibs on rotation: "My first two years we played nine; sometime ten. Ten is hard; most likely nine."

Players on Mirotic from Sam's article:

Derrick Rose: “He’s going to surprise people by the way that he puts the ball down. Like if you fly out at him, he’s able to really attack the rim and avoid charges. He did a couple of moves where it was supposed to be a charge, but he pumped his way around the opponent and scored the ball. We already know he can shoot, but he’s good."

Taj Gibson: “He’s been playing great. He’s knocking down a lot of long threes; it’s been great. He’s learning from me, I’m learning from him.”

Joakim Noah: “He’s pretty good (pause); he’s really good. And he adds a different dimension to the game. He’s a lot more than just a shooter. He’s a great shooter, and he’s done a lot of things that are pretty surprising. You don’t think of stretch fours as guys that can block shots, run the floor, and he can; he’s a hell of a player. Yeah, he’s pretty complete. I think he’s definitely one of our secret weapons."

Training camp can be an extension of the summer. Everyone is playing well, in the best shape of their life, has a new diet, is finally injury free, added a three point shot, whatever...

It's the time where people say things that don't have much meaning because they aren't proven on a court against competition. Heck, even preseason games are simply an extension of that because whatever is shown is proven against competition which generally doesn't care.

However, despite all of that, I still feel good about the praise coming out of camp about Mirotic. It feels more legitimate, because these are all guys who haven't really seen Mirotic play or have seen the same film we have or wondered about how he'd translate.

It feels a lot more legitimate when Rose discusses how Mirotic is taking guys off the dribble. Noah calls him a complete player, who can run the floor and block shots. Thibodeau saying that he looked even better after seeing the film than he did before.

We'll see how things shake out for Mirotic and if he can find a spot in the rotation after all. It seems difficult with only 96 minutes available which averages out to 32 for a piece for the Bulls primary big men. Especially with Thibodeau noting Gasol played his best under Phil at 37-38 minutes a game.

Thibodeau also already dismissed the jumbo lineup saying it didn't work last year, though that seems like an unfair comparison given that they have two big men now who are better than Boozer was to play in it and Mirotic is more suited to be in a jumbo lineup than anyone on the team was last season because he can still space the floor.

If Mirotic proves out as good as fans hope and as good as early returns suggest, then Chicago will think long and hard about trading a big man. Mirotic may sit as a rookie, but if the Bulls end up with four starting caliber big men, it's difficult to see how to build a rotation out of the group without offending someone.

Chicago looks, again, like a team that will eventually need a consolidation trade. Something that Forman/Paxson have not ever pulled off in their tenure. In all fairness, such a trade is typically difficult to pull off and with Love already moved to Cleveland there aren't any obvious targets left to even pursue.

However, that's a story for a different day. Today, we can feel good that Nikola Mirotic is off to a good start and has impressed his teammates and head coach.

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  • fb_avatar

    I think the depth in the frontcourt is the biggest strength of the team, so you don't trade it away. They were four-deep in the frontcourt back when the bench mob was around...Boozer-Gibson, Noah-Asik. Why couldn't they do Gasol-Mirotic, Noah-Gibson? Obviously, there will be periods where Noah is playing with Mirotic and Taj is playing with Pau and vice versa....and that's perfectly fine because all of these guys bring different skills.
    Playing Mirotic 10-12 mins per game (like Asik during his rookie year) would keep Gasol, Gibson, and Noah's minutes down to around 28 mins per game apiece. All three of those guys have had multiple injuries during their careers. If Mirotic is, in fact, really good then he should and will play, and it will benefit the entire team, not just the other three frontcourt guys.

  • In reply to Colin Spence:

    Yes you do trade depth away when you're deficient at other positions, wing in this case. Depth loses value in the playoffs when you shorten rotations, and at the end of games when there are only 5 guys on each side. You don't need 4 quality big men. Sure it's nice to have, but wouldn't you rather have a legitimate starting shooting guard? If Mirotic is in fact really good, then I want to see him play more than 10-12 minutes a game. Why not 32 minutes a game for him, Noah and Gasol? That's hardly too much to ask.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Roman F:

    The Spurs showed that depth doesn't lose value. They had 9 guys play at least 15 mpg in the playoffs....including the Finals.

    I don't want to see 32 MPG from Noah (recovering from knee surgery) and Gasol (34 years old and prone to miss games) during the regular season because the Bulls need frontcourt depth. Trading Gibson would be foolish; he brings a lot on both ends for this team. Noah and Gasol are bound to miss games and it'd be great to have guys who can fill in capably (and maybe help keep the latter two healthy).

    How many legitimate starting shooting guards are there in the league? Not many, and I can't think of any that this front office would be capable of getting. Seriously, the worst aspect of this front office is trades--they've never landed a good player in a trade and I don't trust them to do so.

  • In reply to Roman F:

    I agree with you, Roman, but I think the FO will wait to see what the team has and is missing before any trades.

    It might also be possible to play one of the 4 bigs at SF for stretches because of the interior defense behind him. For example, Nikola or Taj at SF.

    If I were GM and had to make a choice now, I likely would trade a big for a solid starting SG. However, there will be plenty of time for that later.

  • In reply to Colin Spence:

    I would not trade anyone - yet. See how good (and healthy) guys like McDermott, Mirotic, Rose and Butler are before pulling the trigger.

    Best case:
    Rose is healthy and close to his MVP prime
    McDermott is really good and fits
    Butler is healthy and plays closer to like he did 2 years ago

    If that happens - why trade any bigs?!

  • In reply to Granby:

    I doubt that any trade happens until next summer at the earliest, unless someone blows us away with an offer for one of our guys(Taj) that they just have to have.

  • In reply to Granby:

    I agree, you don't trade now, you wait until the deadline and see where you're at. You probably don't trade then either simply because there likely isn't a good trade to be had.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Colin Spence:

    When you have a solid PG and forwards who can score, you hold onto them. This is going to be the best Bulls team since the Jordan era. You're right. The rotation we have is string especially up front. Anyone who has watched a Bulls game in the past couple of years could tell you that a lack of depth in the front court was the Achilles heel within the program. That need has been addressed and the 2-3 spots are much improved with the development of Snell and Butler. This is going to be a crazy exciting season! #bullsnation

  • In reply to Kirby Banks:

    I've watched the Bulls and I would consider a lack of shooting, especially at the guard position, to be the Achilles heel within the program. The front court depth has been ok.

  • In reply to Roman F:

    Agree - although Gibson coming off the bench meant Boozer started... so it was only a mirage.

    Bulls could not shoot and score last year to save their life! Ugly basketball...

  • In reply to Granby:

    I agree with you both, Roman and Granby. This may be taken care of by a Rose resurgence, by McD, or even by Brooks or Snell. If not, then I think Denver would trade Afflalo for Taj near the deadline, and that trade might bring a title to Chicago.

  • In reply to Kirby Banks:

    No having the bozohole on the roster, was their achilles heal, not just the frontcourts.

  • In reply to Colin Spence:

    If you feel you are really ready to win, then you maximize your eight man rotation, and that rotation isn't going to have four big men in it.

    Having front court depth is awesome, but it's far more awesome to have a better eight man rotation in the playoffs.

    Of course trading away depth is dicey given the potential injury problems with virtually the entire front court, so keeping the depth is a nice hedge.

    Only problem is while this maximizes your odds of being very good it doesn't maximize your odds of winning a title.

  • Good to hear about Mirotic being such a well rounded player!
    We will have a harder time then most anyone in the league with our PF/C positions but that can be a good "problem" to have so Gasol and Noah get their rest. With Mirotic's good long range shooting and well rounded game, I hope we could play him at SF some at least and have a big linup of Rose,Butler,Mirotic,Gasol, Noah. Gives us a good balance of offense and defense! :-)
    Mix in some McBuckets off the bench, Snell hopefully getting better, some Dunleavy, etc...I'm hoping for a good regular season and a deep playoff run and we are a legit championship team! :-)

  • Time for GarPax to earn their keep. I've defended them for doing a solid job building this team and a solid job (not perfect) in drafting and developing players over the years. But I've also lamented that they've never been able to land the big one, and as Doug points out, they've never been able to consolidate assets into adding a star to the team. Are they strictly A to B guys? So far, yes, but they have an opportunity to become B to C guys. If they can't do it now, they should move over for someone who can.

  • The Bulls don't believe in giving up big assets for a star player, the pursuit of Carmelo Anthony is how they roll when chasing a scoring stud and that has to change, especially with the front court being crowded. The Bulls need a 18-20 pt per game solid scorer either at small forward or shooting guard. Taj Gibson might be the best trading piece to get this player. Demar Derozen or Afflalo,etc, some athletic wing that can score and defend and take pressure off of Rose. It's the same story every year with the Bulls missing that shooting guard piece for like 4 years now, come on garpax, you had half a decade to think about this problem.

  • In reply to Defense-Rebound13:

    Derozan would be/have been a great get. However, the time to get Derozan has passed, I wanted to trade Ben Gordon for the draft pick to get him before Gordon left, I think that was the year that the Wizards traded their top 5 pick for middle of the road veterans.

  • Bulls need quality shooters/drivers/scorers period. If Taj has to go and Nikola emerges as a very good or better player then you do what you gotta do.

  • In reply to RoadWarrior:

    Unfortunately, for Taj and Taj fans that is the best thing that could happen to the Bulls.

  • fb_avatar

    Good News about Mirotic... I've said it once and I'll say it again, this season will go as far as the two rookies can go. If they prove to be decent pros, the team will go deep into the playoffs. If they prove to be bust, the team will struggle. The Bulls really needs their scoring touch to blend in with the defensive minded veteran core players, and don't expect 34yr old Pau Gasol to be able to carry the load every night.

  • The Bulls are about to have a really good problem on their hands. They have 12 guys who could be considered almost starting caliber on most NBA teams, but Thibs is used to 9 players rotation. I think he will have to find time for both M&M, because they are likely the difference makers on the offense for the Bulls. Even more if they become decent defenders.

  • fb_avatar

    There is no problem and no need for a trade! A 2 for 2 sub of Gibson / Mirotic for Noah / Gasol gives everyone what they need early on in the season. Mix and match, whatever works. By playoff time, the vets will be healthy and the rook will have gained NBA experience and trust from the coach. That much is a no brain-er.
    The shooting guard situation is solid because the cluster of guys we have at sg and sf will work the same as the bigs. All of these guys will be able to feast on open shoots because of the return of Rose and the addition of Gasol. What the front office put together is so much more than enough that it isn't even funny. Anyone who thinks someone needs to go should rethink that idea by all star break. This is the most talented, well balance, hitting on all cylinders group of guy we've ever had. 1 through 11 of the guys on this roster make it easier for the rest of the team, and an eight to nine man rotation come playoffs mean fresh legs for those guys and a few guys primed and ready to step up if needed.

  • IMO, Gasol is more C than PF. And certainly Gibson and Mirotic are PFs and not Cs. So in my view Bulls are two deep at both C and PF. Is starting Noah and Gasol together the best arrangement? Or would it be better to pair one C with one PF?

    Now Noah has a history of injuries, and we saw how Noah and Gibson were overmatched against Gortat and Nene in the playoffs, so I think Bulls need this frontline depth and will keep it not trade it. Particularly given Gasol's advanced age.

  • In reply to Edward:

    I totally agree with your take on the center/power forward situation/rotation. However, it appears that the politics of the Gasol signing will dictate the starting lineup, just as they did for the 4 years of the bozohole era.

    As for your second point, Nene had a career type series, but he didn't do it all against Noah, and Noah didn't suck as bad as people seem to think he did(at least stat wise), especially since we now know that he was playing on one leg. I thought that there had been something wrong with him for the final month or two of the season, you could see it in reduced rebounding and activity.

    Hopefully, he will at least start this season healthy and his knees won't become an ongoing career jeopardizing situation.

  • I love the optimism here but a wing rotation of Butler-Dunleavy-Snell-McDermott doesn't look championship caliber to me. Hope I'm wrong.

  • In reply to Roman F:

    Unless McBucketts is a starting caliber stud, you are right. That kind of McBucketts and Butler is good enough with the usual caveats on Rose's(and Noah's, and Gasol's) health.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Roman F:

    The main reason that rotation is perfect for this team is the surrounding cast of players that give these guys a perfect opportunity to showcase their strengths. Put Butler on the floor with any of the wing rotation guys you mentioned and add Rose, Gasol, and Noah; now you have perfect floor spacing, defense, and offense. Butler or Snell can defend the 2 or 3 while playing with Dunleavy or McDermott. Butler or Snell are not bad shooters either, so with all of this firepower and enough defense to cover each position, this team makes perfect sense as is.

  • Well, I hate to say that I told you so, but I've pointed out that just from watching the few minutes of youtube highlights available on Mirotic, I noted that he looked like he loved to run the floor, get out and finish on the break, and that he seemed to enjoy putting the ball on the floor and breaking people down of the dribble and either finishing at the rim or getting to the line. and I thought that Mirotic was under appreciated visa vi McBucketts.

    Nice to get some validation from the Bulls players(and Thibs) on my initial evaluation of Mirotic. As Doug said, it is still very early, but it is great to hear that Mirotic is more than just a 3 point shooter, and could very well be our future long term starter at PF. Now if Thibs can just find a way to get him enough playing time before we are forced to trade Taj, who I would still hate to see go.

    By the way, anybody up for trading for Dion Waiters if he punches out Irving again, or even worse, Lebron.

  • In reply to BigWay:

    Dion Waiters would be a nice fit for us talent wise, but attitude wise if he can't get it together on a championship team in Cleveland it's tough to see it working out any better for him here.

    I'd be willing to throw them Snell/Dunleavy to take the chance, but I don't know, even that trade has a huge chance of backfiring on us.

  • In reply to DougThonus:

    Definitely an attitude risk, but that would be the only reason that we could get the 4rth pick in his respective draft for scraps(Dunleavy/and or Snell).

    Maybe Rose is easier to get along with than Kyrie Irving. That would be my impression based on how soft spoken/humble Rose is whereas Irving seems a little more like the cocky street ball player.

    I brought this up because there is an interesting article in Grantland anointing Waiters as the new Mario Chalmers who was the(Lebron's) whipping boy in Miami and sometimes chafed under the relentless barrage. Waiters seems even less suited to put up with it. Crazy shit happens in sports, if Irving and Waiters have another blowout, it could be an opportunity to pounce, the Bulls should be ready to do so.

  • In reply to BigWay:

    "Well, I hate to say that I told you so, but ..." BigWay, I think you loved writing that! However, when you are right, you are right.

    Can the Bulls trade Dunleavy? Didn't they make him a promise not to when he signed with Chi for less? Anyway, they may need him.

    As for Waiters, I hope there are better deals available at the deadline. Like Lance, too risky.

    BTW, what is the cap space of the Bulls? How much salary would they have to dump to bring on, say, Afflalo with his $7.5 million salary?

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