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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