- Nick Friedell, ESPN Staff Writer
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CHICAGO -- Nikola Mirotic isn't ready to become the next Dirk Nowitzki, according to ESPN analyst Fran Fraschilla, but he is still a solid player who would have been a top-four selection in this year's draft had he been available.
"I think he would have been the guy like we said with Jabari Parker, he's the most ready to play in an NBA game right now," Fraschilla said on ESPN 1000's "Waddle and Silvy Show" on Monday. "And we might have even made the statement Andrew Wiggins may have the most upside, but I honestly think he would have been in the top [few picks]. Let's assume a healthy [Joel] Embiid, you're definitely talking about [Mirotic being] a top-four pick."
Mirotic, who was picked up by the Chicago Bulls in a draft day deal in 2011, has worked out a buyout to get out of his deal with Real Madrid, according to reports out of Europe. As the Bulls wait for Carmelo Anthony to make a decision as to where he will play next season, they're also trying to figure out just how much it will take to land Mirotic, who is not bound to the rookie scale because he was drafted three years ago.
When asked for an NBA comparison, Fraschilla compared Mirotic to a young Hedo Turkoglu, a player who can space the floor for Derrick Rose and knock down jumpers. But he also noted that fans should not expect too much too quickly.
"I think the Bulls are getting a really solid player here," Fraschilla said. "But they're not getting Dirk Nowitzki, certainly not at this stage of his career."
Fraschilla used a baseball reference to illustrate his point.
"Playing at the level he has for the last four years, he's hitting .330 in Triple-A," Fraschilla said. "And now you're bringing him up to the big leagues. If you're the Chicago Bulls, for example, you're hoping he's going to be a .290 hitter right off the bat."
The Bulls are hoping that production will begin instantly. The front office has always been high on Mirotic's potential because of his ability to stretch out an opponent's defense.
"Given the way the flow of the league is going with spacing, really a lack of quality inside scorers, the game has become a driving game," Fraschilla said. "And where it fits for the Bulls, especially and particularly if D. Rose is healthy and back to form, is he is a 6-[foot-]10, young floor spacer who can really shoot it. But also has enough skill to be able to drive it on occasion. Play around the basket some. He's got to get a little bit stronger; they're getting an above-average NBA starter at 24 who's not an All-Star quality [player] just yet. You're getting a very good, above-average NBA starter. Given his age it was worth the wait [for him to come over] and I think he'll have a nice impact on this Bulls team, particularly with all the pieces that will return."
Fraschilla believes that some of Mirotic's struggles late in the year can be attributed to how the past season in Europe wore him down.
"The macro view of what happened with Real Madrid is they lost some key games down the stretch of their season and overreacted," Fraschilla said. "I understand the coach is now gone or at least he's on the way out. And this is what they do in Europe. Mirotic played 73 games this year. He got tired down the stretch.
"But before a Bulls fan says, 'Wait a minute, that's not as long as the NBA season," keep in mind that these guys take practice way more seriously than they do in the NBA. And what I mean by that is NBA games, once the season starts, there's far fewer practices, far more games. But in Europe, because the season starts in early October, late September, it's lots of practices, lots of games. Mirotic seemed to tire toward the end, but I saw [that] with a number of European players late in the year."
1dMatt Walks, ESPN.com
1dJason McCallum, ESPN Stats & Info