With Jimmy Butler believing he's a point guard - and thus adding further uncertainties to my previous post - it might be time to catch a break from a situation that might, or might not, be escalating into some deep-rooted issues that will be the talk of the town when training camp rolls around.
And what better player to bring a smile on our faces, than Nikola Mirotic?
The 24-year old will play for Spain in the upcoming EuroBasket, and could enter training camp in top-notch condition and game-ready. This will be necessary, as Mirotic is going to be a major cog going forward, given that he's the best "new era" big on the roster. At 6'10, Mirotic turned out be surprisingly adept at handling the ball, even taking defenders off the dribble and attacking the rim with reckless abandon, leading to an excellent free throw rate of 45.5% which he then knocked down at a steady 80.3%.
Mirotic's three most common ways of scoring the ball comes from the most efficient manners in the game; at the rim, from three, and from the line. Of his 833 total points last season, only 92 points did not come from those areas:
297 points off shots from three (31.6% accuracy | 35.6% of offense)
228 points off shots from the line (80.3% accuracy | 27.3% of offense)
216 points off shots at the rim (63.5% accuracy | 25.9% of offense)
With a year under his belt, it wouldn't be out of the realm of possibility to see each and every one of those percentages increase slightly. Given Mirotic's TS% of .556, it'd take no more than a slight increase across the field to throw the second-year man into elite efficiency territory, especially if he ups his volume a little at the same time. With Rose and Butler handling the ball in Fred Hoiberg's motion/spacing offense, Mirotic projects as receiving significantly more open shots, as defenses won't dare to use just single coverage on neither guard.
Hell, had Mirotic been just an average three-point shooter (35%) and shot the same percentage from the line as his 2012-2013 ACB MVP season (82.3%) on last year's volume, he would have had a TS% of .582 which would have been almost identical to Butler's of .583 - thus, a near-elite number.
There's an ideology that for the most part as volume goes up, efficiency doesn't follow with it, but that line of thought is somewhat outdated as several players have shown the capacity of increasing both, and Mirotic should not be an exception given that most shooters improve their accuracy with age. He might take a hit on his efficiency at the rim now that people know about his ability to attack it off the bounce, but assuming Mirotic lives up to the expected improvements as a long-range shooter, and remains a high-volume free throw shooter, it seems difficult to project inefficiency from him at any point soon.
In fact, Mirotic's scoring pattern projects as shielding him from becoming an inefficient scorer. Down the road, this could turn Mirotic into a huge security blanket for the Bulls' offense, if he can remain a continuously consistent scorer who year in and year out provides high percentages.
Pairing Mirotic's already established manner of scoring with his potential as a shooter, and it wouldn't be inconceivable to see him develop into a sort of lower level All-Star like Paul Millsap, only with greater offensive production, while giving up more on the other end. That in itself is a big ask, and admittedly is expecting a lot of Mirotic, but pending the right system and course of development, it could be in the cards even without him making a Butler-esque leap. The tools are there, as are the mechanics and versatility to further improve them, which begs the question:
What level, from a realistic perspective, can Mirotic actually reach?
It's an impossible question to answer perfectly, but there are hints. Players who routinely gets to the free throw line, and converts, are acquiring a ton of free points on a nightly basis. With 27.3% of all Mirotic's points coming from the line, this is undoubtedly a huge weapon going forward. James Harden's 715 made free throws were responsible for 32.2% of his offensive, which is a number Mirotic isn't that far off. 45.1% of Stephen Curry's offense was from behind the arc, less than 10% ahead of Mirotic. Those two are the best at what they do in their respective field, and Mirotic is going the route of not mimicking one, but both.
If given the minutes, Mirotic could become a rare 6/6 big man. That's six three-point attempts and six free throw attempts a game. Kevin Love did that in 2013/2014, his last in Minnesota, and his three-point/free throw production accounted for 54.2% of his 2,010 total points. And Love did it on a very surmountable 37.6% from behind the arc, and 82.1% from the line. Mirotic's per36 numbers already saw him take 6.8 three's and 6.2 freebies, so there's precedent for projecting him to do the same with his raw numbers at some point in time.
Needless to say, this is all conjecture and speculation. His game could change. Hoiberg's system could force change. The offensive symmetry to his game could change. But going off his rookie year, Mirotic projects as a highly interesting four-man who could take the best of both worlds from several elite athletes, and apply it in a package that likely will be of lesser volume than those guys, but compact it and perfect it to such a degree that he would be one of the most efficient scorers at the power forward position.