Monday, June 27, 2011
Bulls discuss Nikola Mirotic's potential
By Nick Friedell
DEERFIELD, Ill. -- Chicago Bulls first-round draft pick Nikola Mirotic probably isn't going to be playing for the Bulls for a few seasons, but that doesn't mean the organization isn't excited about his potential fit with Derrick Rose.
"His skill set, I think, fits us well," Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said on Monday. "It's not only the way he complements Derrick, but also the way he complements Carlos (Boozer). I think when you see big guys that can play out on the perimeter, it puts a lot more pressure on the defense. He's highly skilled, great touch, but more than just a spot-up shooter. He can put it on the floor. I like his frame. He's one of those guys that will continue to get better year after year, so we're excited about having him."
The Bulls acquired the draft rights to Mirotic on Thursday from the Minnesota Timberwolves in exchange for the 28th pick, the 43rd pick and cash considerations. Mirotic plays for Real Madrid and recently signed a contract extension through the 2015 season, which clouds his NBA career for the foreseeable future. Still, Bulls general manager Gar Forman is convinced that Mirotic can be a productive NBA player and could become a valuable trade asset in the future.
"Nikola Mirotic is another guy we were very excited to get on draft night," Forman said. "He is a 6-foot-10, 4-man, that's got a great offensive package we feel. (He) just turned 20 years old, shoots it with range, can handle and pass it so he's very very skilled. He's already playing at a very high level, playing for Real Madrid in the Euroleague and the ACB which is probably the second strongest league in the world behind the NBA. And if you look back historically, it's very unusual for players of that age to be playing such a significant role at that level at this stage of their development. So we were thrilled we could put ourselves in a position to acquire his rights. Part of the reason, our feeling was that he was a definite lottery-type talent."
The Mirotic situation reminds Forman of another one of his current players and what it took for the Bulls to finally get Omer Asik to play in the NBA.
"In some ways it's similar to what we went through with Omer," Forman said. "When you get into the contractual situations, there's always buyouts that need to be negotiated. We can't say for sure when he'll be able to come over, but we're certainly hopeful at some point he'll come over and be a big part of what we're doing."
Forman acknowledged reports that Mirotic had thought about taking his name out of the draft completely because of the amount of years it will probably be before he comes to the NBA, but the Bulls GM got the sense in speaking to the forward that he would eventually play in the league.
"In our speaking with him, it's his desire, his dream, to at some point play in the NBA," Forman said.
Forman knows Mirotic still has a lot of room for development but is confident his game will only improve.
"He still needs to get stronger physically, which I think will come with maturity," Forman said. "But great, great experience being able to play at that level at this time. He's under contract with Real Madrid and will be for a while, but we felt, in the position that we were in, to get a player of that caliber, that we feel fits how we want to play. We feel he fits Derrick Rose because of his ability to space the floor, that it was the right move on our part. And obviously he's getting great experience playing over there, at some point we're very hopeful that we'll get him over here, as part of the Chicago Bulls."
Nobody is quite sure right now when that time will be, though.
"He's under contract with Real Madrid, and like any contractual situation, we don't get into talking about the specifics," Forman said. "But it's likely that he'll be with Real Madrid for a while, which again, he's playing a significant role at a high, high level. I think that will aid in his development as we move forward."
Forman and Thibodeau were asked about the possibility that both may not be around to see Mirotic actually hit the floor for the Bulls. Both men chuckled at the possibility.
"In evaluating where we're at today, and evaluating where we're headed in the future, and evaluating what his talent level was ... this was absolutely the right decision for us to make at this time," Forman said. "Again, we went through a very similar thing with Omer. Now, they're totally different players, but we knew the situations somewhat. We knew that Omer was under contract and that we would have to wait a while for him. In our minds, it was a play worthwhile. We're very happy to have Omer, and I think when the time comes Nikola's going to be a really good fit for our team and our organization."
Nick Friedell covers the Bulls for ESPNChicago.com and ESPN 1000.