- Nick Friedell, ESPN Staff Writer
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CHICAGO -- Nikola Mirotic is probably at least two more years away from playing for the Chicago Bulls, but he already caught the eye of some of his future competition. That's because Mirotic has spent the last few days in the United States playing for Real Madrid against NBA teams. On Saturday it was the Memphis Grizzlies, the same team the Bulls faced on Tuesday night. Grizzlies All-Star Zach Randolph was impressed by what he saw from Mirotic.
"I didn't know that the Bulls drafted him ‘til (Monday) night," Randolph said before Tuesday's game. "One of the workers told me at Grand Lux, I was eating. I like the kid, man. He's got a stroke on him, he can play smart, he's a little physical. I think he can make a statement in this league one day."
Could he play right away, though?
"Yeah, you got to put him at the right spot," Randolph said. "I don't think he could play four or five. I don't know how his ballhandling is so I couldn't say, but I know he can shoot like a 3. I know he could shoot very well so if you put him in the right situation and the right spots I think he could be effective."
Grizzlies head coach Lionel Hollins wasn't as outward with his praise, but he knows with a little more seasoning Mirotic has a chance to be successful.
"I think he's got a chance to be in the league," Hollins said. "He can shoot the ball, he knows how to play. Obviously, when we start talking about a kid that hasn't come over, that is still young, it's about getting stronger and learning the NBA game. The NBA game is so much more aggressive and physical and over there a lot guys just stand on the perimeter and shoot shots and that's it. But he'll have to be able to play both positions and it will be tough for him (at times). We went small and played Rudy Gay at four and he became a non-factor. If he's playing against a bigger four, obviously, he's going to have a little bit more of an advantage."
Privately, Bulls executives have been impressed with Mirotic's game. They are hoping to bring him over as soon as possible, likely in two years when the restrictions in his contract become a little easier to negotiate around. In the meantime, the Bulls are left waiting, and hoping, the Mirotic continues to develop into the player they think he can be.
16hMatt Walks, ESPN.com
22hMatt Walks, ESPN.com