Tag Archives: Nikola Mirotic

Bienvenidos a Chicago, Pau Gasol & Nikola Mirotic

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While everyone in Chicago is undoubtedly disappointed that Carmelo Anthony chose the New York Knicks after a long wait, the Bulls did well filling their roster. Before Carmelo had even formally announced his intentions, the Bulls were rumored to be nearing an agreement with All-Star (and likely future Hall of Famer) Spaniard Pau Gasol.

Those numbers are almost official now (the front office is frantically trying to find a way to avoid amnestying Carlos Boozer, a foregone conclusion) and are very team-friendly for the Bulls. According to Adrian Wojnarowski, demigod of NBA reporting and utilizer of the #WojBomb, Pau’s deal will be for three years and $22 million with a player option in year three. Considering Gasol turned down offers of two/$20 million and 3/$29 million from the Lakers, this is great value for the Bulls. It also shows that Gasol believes that the Bulls have a brighter future than the Lakers.

Will Pau be a good fit? At first I wasn’t so sure, but the more I think about this move, the more I like it. The Bulls biggest problem since letting Omer Asik leave (for basically no reason besides cheapness) has been finding effective frontcourt combinations besides Taj Gibson and Joakim Noah. Gasol struggled badly defensively last season, but it wouldn’t be surprising if he was checked out on Mike D’Antoni–not to mention the fact that D’Antoni is the bizarro Tom Thibodeau: he only coaches offense. Playing in a strict system of accountability should bring out the best defense Gasol still has to offer, which I’m confident will be a step up from Carlos Boozer. In addition, Pau is possibly the best passing big man not named Joakim Noah, which should create some wonderful sets for Thibs to play with. Gasol can play at a high level with Noah or Gibson, making him a very solid addition at around $7 million per year.

Now let’s talk about the other guy. Replacing Boozer with Pau will improve the big rotation, but the addition of Spanish star Nikola Mirotic will solidify the Bulls’ almost embarrassment of riches down low. Bicky wrote a great player profile of Mirotic last summer, but he’s kind of like a poor man’s Kevin Love. His shooting should help space the floor in addition to giving Tom Thibodeau a number of frontcourt combinations to use. Mirotic reportedly will sign for three years and $17 million (#WojBomb), another terrific contract. It was feared that he would cost more to pry away from Real Madrid, but things worked out nicely for the Bulls. If Mirotic hits his potential, it’s a steal; if he disappoints, it’s a very manageable (and moveable) deal.

The biggest question mark going forward will be the depth on the wings. Jimmy Butler and Mike Dunleavy will presumably be starters, with Doug McDermott and Tony Snell coming off the bench. If Snell doesn’t take a big step up and McDermott is a bust, the Bulls offense will once again find itself in a lot of trouble come playoff time–especially if Jimmy Butler still can’t shoot. The upcoming signing of Kirk Hinrich (two years, $5.6 million, would you like to take my hand into traffic?) appears to lock up the roster.

The gut reaction of disappointment to losing out on Melo is understandable, expected, and justified. But once we start to piece together what next year’s rotation will look like, it’s hard to imagine the front office doing that much better this summer. The issue, of course, has been the treading of water since 2010, justified by “The 2014 Plan”, which failed to bring in another true star. Still, LeBron’s jump to Cleveland has thrown the East into complete disarray. The Bulls could easily be favorites to win the conference if Derrick Rose is back to an All-Star level.

Bulls Summer Wishlist

 

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Hey guys, I know it’s been a while. The combination of a series loss more sour than that milk you threw out from last semester and impending college graduations for the DRaT staff has led to a void of content since the Bulls went down. Have no fear, though. I’m gonna talk for a minute about the playoffs and then bring the heat on the much hyped summer plans.

The Wizards really shat on the Bulls. This is doubly frustrating because they decided after Game 1 against Indiana to stop being a good basketball team (they’re down 3-1). Still, Washington was the more talented team against the Bulls and it showed. Joakim Noah’s point-center stretch was cute (some may say adorable) during the regular season, but the rigid game-planning and increasingly difficult execution of the playoffs made his passing a near non-factor. Outside of that, the Bulls struggled to find any consistent offense. Mike Dunleavy had one huge game (not coincidentally the Bulls’ only win) and Taj Gibson was an absolute machine, but that was far from enough. There was more at play in the series, but the Bulls’ poor showing truly comes down to their complete inability to score points. Defense may win championships, but points definitely help win games.

On a brighter note, this is the most hyped offseason in Chicago since 2010 (AKA the Summer of LeBron). On a darker note, we all know how that ended up, with Carlos Boozer inking $75 million that may as well have been lit on fire like a Mereeneese goat. Still, that’s a good as segue as any to my first agenda on the summer wishlist.

booze

YOU BOOZE, YOU LOSE

Carlos Boozer has got to go, but that’s all but assured at this point. Tom Thibodeau stopped trusting Boozer altogether and severely cut his minutes, correctly putting his faith in Taj Gibson. Boozer knows his time is up and was respectful about the opportunity (and money) the team gave him. The real question is how it all plays out. Obviously, the smartest thing to do would be to amnesty the last year on Boozer’s contract, wiping it from the books completely. This would still mean that Jerry Reinsdorf has to pay Boozer the money, but not toward the salary cap. This is the only real option if you assume no GM would willingly trade for Boozer. Of course, Jerry Reinsdorf is notoriously cheap when it comes to the Bulls, so it’s being reported that that they’re seeking a trade partner. I don’t have a problem with this in theory, since trading Boozer would save the team a lot of money and get him off the books. The worst case scenario, however, would be wasting a valuable asset (most likely one of the Bulls’ two 2014 first round picks) in a trade to entice another team to take on Boozer’s contract. If the Bulls do this, it’s a tacit admission that they are too cheap to go all out in building a contender.

melo

Hello, Melo.

It has to be reiterated that this is a long shot, but the Bulls could reallyyyyy use Carmelo Anthony. As such, it needs to be (and presumably is) their number one, two and three priorities to sign Carmelo away from New York. First, a thought experiment for any naysayers. Take the 2013-14 Chicago Bulls and replace all of Boozer’s minutes with Carmelo Anthony. If you don’t think that’s a 55-60 win team, you’re nuts. Not only is Melo possibly underrated on defense because of all the hate he takes, but he couldn’t possibly be worse than Carlos Boozer. He tries hard, hustles, rebounds more and is way better at positioning than the Alaskan Hammer. Now, throw in the fact that he’s the second best scorer in the league after Mr. Reliable (KD). You have a Bulls defense that remains top five, if not top two, and an offense that soars from #28 of 30 to closer to 15. Joakim Noah has made it clear to Melo that Chicago is ripe for him, but not at the cost of Taj Gibson. This is reasonable thinking, as Taj and Jo are the backbone of the entire Chicago defense, especially with Luol Deng gone. However, this detail will make it tricky for Gar Forman and John Paxson to lure Carmelo from New York. If Melo truly cares about winning and winning now, he’ll take a pay cut and leave New York. It might not be for Chicago, but they’re certainly his number one option if he leaves. Still, the late season acquisition of Phil Jackson by the Knicks might provide the perfect excuse for Carmelo to stay put and count the money. This is the key to the Bulls’ summer, without a doubt.

Make Nice with Thibs

Both Tom Thibodeau and Gar Forman have reiterated multiple times that they have a good working relationship and Tom is happy as coach of the Bulls. Still, that doesn’t seem especially true when every premiere team in the league requests permission to interview Thibs for head coach. If Tom was so happy in Chicago (where he’s signed for three more seasons!), why would the Lakers, Knicks and Warriors try to pry him away? Clearly, things aren’t 100% well in the front office, and it’s becoming a problem. The fact that neither Thibs or the Bulls have released a statement essentially telling other teams to fuck off is moderately alarming. Having Thibs and the front office on the same page entering the season is a priority.

Rounding Out the Edges

So much is dependent on Carmelo Anthony that it’s hard to suggest specific things the Bulls need to do past that. If they are successful at signing Melo and somehow retaining Gibson, they will have very little money left to spend on the rest of the roster. In that case, the Bulls would need to look for quality back-ups and bench players that could be had for minimum money. Signing Carmelo also would definitely mean that Nikola Mirotic stays in Madrid for at least one more season. However, if the Bulls are unable to snag Melo, they will have a lot of options in front of them. Instead of splurging on the next biggest name like they did in 2010, the Bulls would then need to put all their efforts into bringing Mirotic over. Mirotic has a skill set that projects to be incredibly useful for the Bulls. The only reason there hasn’t been an insane amount of buzz over him is because of the Melo implications. Mirotic is a prototypical stretch four who has been dominating in Spain for years; his three point shooting would be a breath of fresh air, especially from the power forward position. Bringing Mirotic over and finding another key contributor or two in free agency would still provide the Bulls with one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference, if not the best. It remains to be seen what happens in Miami and Indiana after the season.

To sum things up, the ideal Bulls summer would like something like this: amnesty Boozer, sign Carmelo, keep Taj Gibson, lick Tom Thibodeau’s balls if he so desires, sign contributors for minimum contracts (like Nate Robinson, Marco Belinelli, DJ Augustin, etc.). Also, a healthy Derrick is kind of hugely important, but there’s nothing the Bulls can do about him or his fat contract. If Rose gets injured this summer, it’ll suck. But how confident would you really be that he could play a whole season if he can’t make it through the summer? Playing with Team USA worries some, but Rose’s MVP season followed his stint with Team USA in 2010. This time, Thibs is an assistant with him. Let’s hope The Return 2.0 is more successful.

Quick Bulls Thought: Four Reasons Why You Should Keep Watching

NBA: Playoffs-Chicago Bulls at Miami Heat

I apologize in advance for the BuzzFeed nature of this post. I also recognize that the purpose behind writing this is mostly to convince myself of lies rather than educate and entertain the masses. Desperate times call for desperate measures.

I couldn’t wait for the NBA season to begin. As soon as the calendar flipped to October my anticipation for the regular season had me bursting at the seams. Despite (what appeared at the time) a strong Eastern Conference, I was confident that the Bulls would be playing deep into the playoffs. I thought Miami, exhausted from the last three seasons, would finally fall to the Bulls. Then the preseason started and my title dreams started to look like they would come true. Butler looked to be a much improved player. Nagging injuries to Deng and Noah from the season before had healed with rest over the summer. And Rose was BACK.

I don’t need to go into detail about how the last month has gone. The Bulls fanbase has become, to put it simply, incredibly depressed. As the Bulls have been unable to surpass 80 points in any of their last three games, it has become a struggle to convince myself to sit and watch the games.

But real fans are there for the team through thick and thin. Even at their absolute worst, it’s our duty as Bulls fans to support this team. It’s these dark days that will make the good ones that much more incredible. So what I have set out to do here is to give Bulls fans (i.e. me)  some small things to take pleasure in while watching games.  Without further ado, here are four reasons to keep watching the Bulls in 2013-14

1. Taj Gibson is a force of nature

When the Bulls extended Taj Gibson last year, effectively choosing him over Omer Asik, I thought the team had made a mistake. With Carlos Boozer on the roster, it seemed absurd to extend another power forward for big money. But Gibson has lived up to his contract this year, as he has far and away been the team’s MVP.

Playing just over 27 minutes a game, Taj is averaging 12.3 points a game, a career high, on 49% shooting. He is also pulling down a robust seven rebounds per game. Gibson’s per-36 minutes numbers or 16 points and 9 rebounds foreshadow an even greater potential impact on the team should Carlos Boozer ever be sent packing. But the raw box numbers don’t come close to highlighting how great Gibson has been this season.

In this age of advanced statistical age, where teams are designing offenses that either shoot threes or take the ball to the rim, rim protection has become one of the most valuable commodities on an NBA team. Rim protection is Taj Gibson’s specialty. For players who have played at least 20 games and are averaging at least 25 minutes and one  block per game (basically big guys who see the floor), Taj Gibson has the lowest opponent field goal percentage at the rim at an astounding 31%. The second lowest opponent field goal percentage at the rim belongs to Roy Hibbert, the early favorite to win Defensive Player of the Year. His percentage? 39.9%.

2. Effort

I know it seems like I’m already getting desperate for positives with a heading like “Effort.” And you’re right, I am desperate. This is a difficult thing to write. But the Bulls must remain on your television schedule because you are guaranteed to see this team give it their all every single night. In their most recent game against the Knicks, the Bulls fell behind by 23 in the second half before roaring back to tie the game in the fourth quarter. While they came up short in a bid for victory, they certainly provided some entertainment value for a game that was, to put it nicely, poorly played.

The Bulls average point differential per game is just -.03, a mark that would predict about a .500 record. This is a team that has a lot of fight in it and will only tank if it’s the result of a major trade that strips the team of a talented piece. The guys on the roster right now will never go down without a fight.

3. Nikola Mirotic

Read this and try to contain your excitement. Every time you think that basketball will never be fun again, just remember that potentially next season the Bulls could bring the next Dirk over from Spain. Mirotic and Rose could form a deadly pick and pop combination that would be almost unguardable.

When talking about Nikola Mirotic, it is best to be unrealistically optimistic or else reality is just too sad.

4. Tom Thibodeau’s Face(s)

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Tom Thibodeau

You just don’t get this type of gold in a 60 win season.

 

 

Player Profile: Nikola Mirotic

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On June 23, 2011, with the 23rd pick in the NBA draft, the Chicago Bulls selected Nikola Mirotic. Without ever having stepped onto an NBA court, the 22 year old Spaniard of Montenegrin decent has become one of the most hyped names in basketball. Every time a trade rumor pops up online about the Bulls, Mirotic is inevitably mentioned as a huge cog in a deal that could theoretically send a big time talent back to the Windy City. So what’s all the excitement about?

Mirotic currently plays for Real Madrid, the same team he began his professional career with. In his first season playing professionally, Mirotic won the Euroleague Rising Star award. This type of early buzz is what led the Bulls to spend an incredibly valuable first round pick on a player they knew wouldn’t come to the States for several years.

Mirotic is listed at 6’10” and his natural position is power forward. But he’s not a traditional big guy who is wary about leaving the paint on offense. Mirotic is an accomplished shooter who has averaged about 37% on his three pointers during his brief career. The stretch four is the hottest commodity in the NBA. With the rise of the statistical revolution, the emphasis on the three point shot has greatly increased (for those wondering why, 3>2). Mirotic, while still very young, inevitably will draw some comparisons to German superstar Dirk Nowitzki, the prototype of the stretch four and the guy who paved the way for big European shooters to make their presence felt in the NBA.

Many people believe that the Bulls will be very reluctant to part ways with Mirotic, despite the fact he has been completely untested by the best competition in the world. The Bulls likely view Mirotic as the long term replacement for Carlos Boozer once his contract either runs out or he is released via the amnesty provision. Mirotic would act as an ideal foil to the defense first Taj Gibson and could likely slide over to the five if necessary for stretches of games simply because Taj is such an animal on defense. Mirotic is also likely to be on the receiving end of many a drive and kick from Derrick Rose, who will in turn appreciate less traffic in the lane thanks to the shooting prowess of Mirotic.

Unfortunately for Bulls fans, Mirotic is unlikely to come across the ocean anytime soon. His current contract in Spain pays him more than what he is allotted due to his draft slotting. He also would cost quite a bit to buy out from his Real Madrid contract, a fee Bulls owner Jerry Reisndorf is unwilling to pay.

Whenever he gets here, it will hopefully be well worth the wait. With DRose entering his prime years, Mirotic looks to be a key cog in the long term success of the Chicago Bulls.