Two short years after looking every bit the superstar-driven contender, the Chicago Bulls find themselves facing something of an uncertain future.
How will Derrick Rose recover from his second knee injury in as many years? How will Chicago approach the 2015 offseason, when Carlos Boozer’s onerous contract finally comes off the books?
Amidst all the questions, Bulls fans can bank on at least one surefire positive: The increasing likelihood of Euroleague superstar Nikola Mirotic joining the team.
From the Chicago Tribune’s K.C. Johnson:
Mirotic, the Bulls' 2011 draft-day acquisition, is widely considered the best international prospect not in the NBA. Though he finished with 12 points and seven rebounds, he struggled defensively throughout the final and to finish at the rim occasionally.
The Bulls will begin negotiations for the first time this offseason with Mirotic, who has a buyout this summer. Though Real Madrid made noise about possibly signing Mirotic to an extension beyond the one year remaining on his deal, that could contain an out clause should Mirotic opt for the NBA.
Negotiations with European-based prospects, whom NBA teams often “stash” in an effort to bide more development time, can be a tricky thing, oftentimes requiring a pricey buyout. As a benchmark, the Houston Rockets are looking at a $500,000 buyout for prospect Zoran Dragic, per EuroHoops.net's Lefteris Moutis, the brother of Phoenix Suns point guard Goran Dragic.
Per Johnson’s story, general manager Gar Forman remains confident the Bulls will be able to get their man, saying at last week’s NBA Draft Combine, "We have built a relationship with him. We feel confident he will come over at some point. Whether that's this summer or next, we don't know."
Now, if you’re like me, you probably don’t watch a ton of Euroleague ball. Although, with no NBA games on, putting CSKA Moscow-Maccabi Tel Aviv on the other day did succeed in lulling my screaming infant to sleep. So there’s that.
Anyway, here’s a nifty scouting video for the versatile 6’10” big, courtesy of our friends at DraftExpress:
Back in December, Bleacher Report's Jonathan Wasserman detailed the finer points of how Mirotic might translate at the NBA level:
Though he's not going to give you the interior presence of a Carlos Boozer or the lockdown defense of a Luol Deng, Mirotic's high basketball IQ and motor diminish the concern over his lack of strength and athleticism...
...His efficient approach and offensive strengths should translate nicely in a complementary role. I wouldn't bet on any All-Star appearances, but he's a guy who can get you a bucket without holding the ball or disrupting the team's rhythm. With Mirotic, you pretty much know what you're going to get every night, and that plays to his value to a team.
You’d be hard-pressed to find a more polished, seemingly NBA-ready big. That’s great news if you’re the Bulls, who could use a floor-stretcher of Mirotic’s prowess to pair with paint-dwelling center Joakim Noah.
European prospects are still something of a crapshoot. But if the scouting specs and word of mouth are to be believed, the notoriously spendthrift Bulls could be looking at a potential coup.