Last year, the Chicago Bulls had what became to be known as the bench mob, but over the summer the group of players that substituted in for the starters was broken up. Omar Asik went to the Houston Rockets, CJ Watson went to the Brooklyn Nets, Ronnie Brewer went to the New York Knicks, and Kyle Korver went to the Atlanta Hawks.
With these players gone it left Taj Gibson as the only remaining player from the original bench squad. Gibson’s new role will be to back up Carlos Boozer at power forward as well as provide solid low-post basketball. But behind Gibson lies who?
Maybe Vladimir Radmonivic, or more likely it will be Nikola Merotic when he arrives in Chicago in 2014.
Merotic was drafted 23rd overall by the Rockets and then immediately traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves and then traded immediately again, this time to Chicago. He has drawn comparisons to both Dirk Nowitzki and Danilo Gallinari, who are great players to be compared to. Considered one of the top power forwards in Europe, Merotic has drawn attention from around the league due to his versatility, perimeter play and his low-post moves.
This is exactly the type of player Chicago needs and when he arrives Chicago should already have him penciled in as to where and how he will be playing for the team.
Because of his versatility, the 6’10 225 pound Merotic can be interchanged in the offense, it is expected he will see more time at the power forward position than anywhere else but that means he is third off the bench behind Carlos Boozer and Gibson. Instead, Chicago should look to move him around and test him as a small forward to see how reliable his shot from long range is.
2014 seems like a long ways away, and if Chicago were to think about Merotic’s place on the team this early they should consider that starting power forward Boozer will be 33. If he survives this season without being amnestied, he will still be older, less mobile and less reliable as he is now.
With this in mind, it is not a long shot to see how Merotic could take Boozer’s place at the helm or become the second string power forward behind Gibson. Either way, no matter where is it put in the offense, his presence will be known.
Being compared to the likes of Nowitzki and Gallinari means that he has a reliable shot from long-range and can make opponents pay for leaving him open. This is exactly what Chicago wants, by 2014, superstar Derrick Rose will be more than healthy and back into his groove of cutting into the lane and penetrating defenses.
If that’s the case, then a three point expert like Merotic would be perfect as a catch-and shot type of perimeter player that Rose can dish to when he is in trouble. If Chicago doesn’t want him as simply a catch-and-shoot type player, they can run him off the ball, down low, free-throw line extended or on the block, his versatility allows him to be a threat to opponents anywhere on the floor and that’s exactly how Chicago should use him.
Nowitzki makes a living off of his back-to-the-basket fade away jumpers and corner three’s, Chicago should mirror Nowitzki’s style of play and have Merotic do the same thing.
At 225 pounds, Merotic can be s force in the low-post with his back to the basket (like Nowitzki) or he can step out and bury the jumper (like Gallinari), no matter what move he makes it doesn’t just put points on the board for Chicago, it will relieve Rose, Deng and Hamilton (who will be 36 by then) from carrying the scoring load as well as give Chicago a whole new set of plays they can execute on the offensive side.
Chicago has a lot to look forward to until 2014 and from now until then the team may make a whole new set of changes to the line-up. But regardless of who stays and who goes its safe to assume that Merotic will offer Chicago a whole new dynamic of offense and may possibly be the piece they need to make a championship run.