If the Chicago Bulls fail to land Carmelo Anthony in NBA free agency, they need a backup plan. According to numerous reports, part of the backup plan includes bringing over European star Nikola Mirotic, the 2011 first-round pick that has quietly become arguably the best prospect not playing in the NBA.
It has been rumored that Miroctic would come to the NBA this season but with the Bulls chasing Anthony and trying to save all their cap space to sign him, it seemed that Mirotic would be left in limbo until the Melo sweepstakes had concluded. Maybe the Bulls engagement in contract talks with Miroctic mean it already has.
The Bulls aren’t saying that they’ve given up on Anthony and I’m sure if he told them he wanted to come to Chicago they would find a way to make it happen. But at the end of the day, the New York Knicks can pay Anthony much more money. Much, much more. The difference is between the $50-60 million range and I don’t care who you are and how much money you have, that’s a lot of cash to leave on the table.
Could anybody really blame Anthony for taking the money to stay in New York? No. He would be stupid not to take the money. And if he could convince Pau Gasol to come to New York, that addition along with the trade for Jose Calderon, at least gives the Knicks a starting point. With Anthony and Gasol in the fold, the Knicks would definitely be a playoff team and the East, with a couple other pieces; they could push for a top-four seed. Then add another star player in a year and you might have something.
So as much as it pains me to say it Chicago, Anthony isn’t coming, it’s time to sign Mirotic.
There has been talk that the Bulls are interested in Gasol and I can see why but truth be told, Mirotic is a better fit and has much more long-term potential. At just 23 years old, he still has plenty of room to grow and could potentially blossom into a high-end NBA player. Gasol on the other hand, is 34 and while still a good player is unquestionably on the decline.
Mirotic makes sense for Chicago because he is a true stretch four. His shooting ability is off the charts and would be deadly playing the pick-and-roll with Derrick Rose. He has great touch around the basket, can shoot off the dribble, is a tremendous spot-shooter and excels at the pick-and-pop.
Last season while playing 24.1 minutes per game in the Euroleague, Mirotic averaged 12.8 PPG along with 4.8 rebounds. His overall numbers may not stand out, but in fact, they are very good. The most impressive thing about his numbers is shooting percentage, which was 50.1 percent from the field and 46.1 percent from beyond the arc. That kind of shooting is exactly what Chicago needs.
Mirotic does have some work to do on the defensive end but he is athletic enough and works hard enough to be at worst an average defender. He rebounds the ball reasonably well and would form a tremendous three-man rotation in the frontcourt with Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson.
Is Mirotic going to be the next Dirk Nowitzki? Probably not but he could be and due to years of professional experience in two of the most competitive leagues in Europe, Mirotic should be ready to contribute from day one. He may not be the superstar the Bulls coveted this offseason but he is a very talented player who could someday grow into something special. At the very least, he will make the Bulls a better all-around team for the 2014-15 season. Free agency is about getting better and by signing, Mirotic Chicago does exactly that.