Updates from Sunday, July 20
Nikola Mirotic spoke about the "challenge" ahead of him after signing with the Bulls, per the Chicago Tribune's K.C. Johnson:
'All this is a big challenge for me,' Mirotic said. 'I know it's going to be hard, especially in the beginning. But as Coach is saying—and that helps me a lot—they want me to progress step-by-step. I strongly believe that I'm ready for this challenge. And I'm going to show it by practicing and working out hard and playing.'
The Chicago Bulls may not have landed Carmelo Anthony in free agency, but they will be getting Montenegrin Nikola Mirotic.
Mirotic confirmed he will sign with the Bulls on his Twitter account:
Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports had Mirotic's contract terms:
Euro star Nikola Mirotic's deal with the Chicago Bulls will be three years, $17M-plus, league source tells Yahoo Sports.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) July 13, 2014
Chicago traded for Mirotic's draft rights after the 2011 NBA draft but had so far been unable to lure him away from Europe.
That changed when the 23-year-old agreed to a contract buyout with Real Madrid, per HoopsHype and ESPN.com's Brian Windhorst:
Source tells HoopsHype Nikola Mirotic's decision to go to Chicago is final. Will pay contract buyout at more than $3 million.— HoopsHype (@hoopshype) July 4, 2014
The Bulls are working on signing F Nikola Mirotic, sources told ESPN. He secured buyout today from Real Madrid according to @hoopshype— Brian Windhorst (@WindhorstESPN) July 4, 2014
Pro Basketball Talk's Dan Feldman explained some of the more nuanced financial details:
Because the Bulls drafted Mirotic more than three years ago, they can use room rather than the rookie scale to sign him. Likely, it took a larger-than-scale offer to lure the promising forward—perhaps as much as the mid-level exception.
The Bulls can contribute just $600,000 to Mirotic’s buyout without adding to team salary. Anything else, structured as a signing bonus in his contract, would add to team salary and come out of Mirotic’s paycheck. Of course, they could potentially offer him a larger contract than they would otherwise in order to pay more of his buyout.
As Windhorst tweeted out, the Bulls could still hypothetically sign Anthony this offseason, but the chances took a major hit after they locked up Mirotic:
This doesn't mean the Bulls pursuit of Carmelo Anthony is over but the cap space required to sign Mirotic restricts options.— Brian Windhorst (@WindhorstESPN) July 4, 2014
The Bulls don't have a lot of wiggle room with the salary cap, even if they amnesty Carlos Boozer. Signing both Mirotic and Anthony is nearly impossible unless they make other changes.
At the very least, the team would need to move some other less-expensive pieces around in order to open up the cap space. Chicago could still work a sign-and-trade, but few teams would be willing to take on Boozer's massive contract.
If they're unable to sign Anthony, having Mirotic softens the blow.
He has played for Real Madrid since 2008. This past season, he averaged 12.4 points a game, with 4.6 rebounds and 1.2 assists. The Madrid star also shot 46.1 percent from three-point range. He could be a nice fit for Chicago based on that production and his ability to stretch the floor.
The prospect of bringing Mirotic in from overseas has been discussed by Bulls fans for the past few seasons. Now, it has become a reality.
Chicago identified that outside scoring was one of its biggest problems and has addressed the issue in a big way with the signing of Mirotic and draft-night trade for Doug McDermott. Those two should help the Bulls take the next step in the postseason.