With the Chicago Bulls closing in on signing Nikola Mirotic we thought we’d reissue an article we wrote back in 2012. Currently, Mirotic would be equivalent of a Top-5 pick in the recently completed 2014 NBA Draft. But let’s go back to what we thought of the Bulls’ trade for Mirotic in the 2011 NBA Draft. Here you go…
The month of December was a glaring display of why Nikola Mirotic is seen by many as the hands down steal of the 2011 NBA draft, selected by the Chicago Bulls with the 23rd overall pick. The Montenegrin-naturalized-Spanish prospect had the best month of his career as a pro, becoming a starter for Real Madrid and being named the EuroLeague’s Most Valuable Player of the month on the way.
In four EuroLeague games, Mirotic has posted averages of 18.5 points and 6.7 rebounds and shot 62.7% from the field, including 64% on two-pointers and 61.5% on three-pointers. In four Liga Endesa games, he has posted averages of 12.75 points and 7.75 rebounds and shot 48.5% from the field, including 43.2% from beyond the arc. Adding it all up and in eight games on the month, you have Mirotic averaging 15.6 points and 7.2 rebounds, shooting an excellent 55.6% from the field.
And he didn’t do it against a bunch of nobodies either. At center, he went against the likes of Tiago Splitter (Valência), German Gabriel (the Spanish league’s most productive player this season – Asefa Estudiantes) and Latavious Williams (whose NBA rights belong to the Oklahoma City Thunder – FIATC Mutua Joventut), Ioannis Bouroussis (Armani Milano), Sofoklis Schortsanitis (Maccabi Electra), Milan Macvan (Europe’s breakout player of the year – (Partizan Belgrade) and Stanko Barac and Esteban Batista (Anadolu Efes – EuroLeague).
These are highlights from Mirotic’s Euroleague MVP Week 8.
Mirotic had the best month of his career against basically the best competition Europe has to offer.
An interesting fact about Mirotic becoming a starter is that the 6-foot-10 stretch four is, as mentioned above, playing center. Head-coach Pablo Laso was feeling the heat for not giving Ante Tomic, the team’s best player last year, enough minutes and is currently placing Tomic alongside Mirotic in the starting lineup. Despite being 7-foot-3, Tomic, whose NBA rights belong to the Utah Jazz, is not a good defender by any stretch of the imagination, meaning Mirotic has been the one responsible for paint protection and help defense duties.
Over this last month he has started at center, Mirotic has been able to work on his defense, something that has gone unnoted thanks to his godly numbers on offense. It’s become clear he is not a shot blocker but he has shown he possesses the instincts and athleticism to eventually become a reliable help defender and an isolation defender at some point. This will need to happen before he gets to Chicago, whenever that is, otherwise Tom Thibodeau won’t put in him on the floor just like he never really gave James Johnson many chances, although Johnson is not as talented as Mirotic.
Nikola came off a strong, progressive month of November, bouncing back from a slow start in October, and had his best month as a professional player, making us wonder what is coming up in this next calendar year. The development from prominent, upcoming prospect capable of pitching in to a top frontcourt ace is taking place. And as it happens and Mirotic progresses and continue to extend his ceiling, it becomes clearer how great a selection the Bulls made.
Rafael Uehara is a Correspondent and International Scout for NetScouts Basketball and the managing editor of ‘The Basketball Post’. More of his work can be found here and he can be followed on twitter @rafael_uehara. Thanks to our media partner, the Euroleague, for the pictures and video.