Published by Jerz on 3/21/2015
The 2014-2015 season for the Chicago Bulls has had it’s fair shares of ups and downs. As it stands, the Bulls are (42-28) and the 3rd seed in the Eastern Conference (and would square off against the Milwaukee Bucks if the playoffs began today). There have been highs and lows and some things still left to figure out. No player on the roster is a better microcosm of this than 24 year old, Serbian born, Nikola Mirotic. Bulls fans were excited to hear that the former Spanish League star would be joining the team this year but many didn’t know exactly what they’d be getting. Mirotic was billed as a 6’10” power forward that could stretch the floor with his incredible 3 point range but has shown to be much more. Looking at his numbers through 70 games (9.5 pts/gm, 4.9 rebs/gm, 40.7% FG, 31.5% 3pt, 80.1% FT in 19.5 mins/gm with 3 starts) you might not be very impressed. The reality is “numbers” don’t tell the real story here and the fact is Mirotic has been huge for the Bulls in their last 10 games (20.8 pts/gm and 8.4 rebs/gm in 32.5 mins) and has been much more than a “catch and shoot” guy. He’s shown himself to be a threat not only from outside of the 3 point arch but also putting the ball on the deck and getting to the basket with regularity. He has been a matchup problem and has even seen some playing time at small forward (in addition to power forward) and has been something of a closer for the Bulls late in games. Bulls Head Coach Tom Thibodeau has a reputation of being pretty tough on rookies (especially if they aren’t getting things done defensively) and Mirotic has had his share of NBA “growing pains” (which was expected). The blessing in disguise has been the playing time Mirotic has received in March (with injuries to Mike Dunleavy, Taj Gibson, Jimmy Butler and Derrick Rose). With such a scoring void left, with the aforementioned players not available, the “Serbian Sniper” has been up to task. March has been good to Mirotic (averaging 20.8 pts/gm, 8.4 rebs/gm) and his ability to knock down big shots late is a great sign heading into a destined playoff push. Coming off of a 29 point 11 rebound performance against Conference nemesis Toronto, last night, Mirotic continues to get a boost to his confidence at the right time. Eventually, Coach Thibodeau will have to find a way to continue to incorporate the Serbian sharpshooter once the Bulls have their full complement of players at his disposal (which hopefully is soon).
The Bulls have some issues to address at the end of this season, with questions about Thibodeau’s return as Head Coach, Jimmy Butler’s eventual contract renewal and Derrick Rose’s uncertain return to MVP caliber. One question that is being answered is that Mirotic can flat out play, will only get better and poses to be a future building block for this franchise. He’s a great candidate for NBA rookie of the year and is setting himself up for what should be a very exciting playoff run for the Bulls. The video below gives you a glimpse of his tremendous range as a shooter as well as his ability to score in the paint and get to the hoop off the bounce. Bulls fans, enjoy. Opposition, take notice, because this kid is a PROBLEM!