LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony will be the big prizes after the NBA season, but odds are neither will be the big acquisition the Bulls make during the offseason. Instead the biggest “free agent” the Bulls go after will likely be the one they got in a draft day trade back in 2011: Nikola Mirotic.
Yes, after three years of playing well in Europe for Real Madrid, there are signs that this summer could be the summer Mirotic finally crosses the Atlantic to give the NBA a try. Though his salary wouldn’t be the only cost to the Bulls.
While the Bulls aren’t talking publicly about what their plans are for Mirotic this summer, those around him in Spain believe he’ll be joining the Bulls next season. Now, I don’t pay much attention to what’s going on over in Spain these days, but thankfully Ricky over at Blog A Bull does. And he’s found some articles discussing this very topic.
In an interview with MARCA, Mirotic said:
“Chicago loves me and makes a great effort for me, a decision will be taken soon,”
Another Spanish story says the president of Real Madrid knows Mirotic’s departure this summer is ‘very likely‘, despite the fact that Real Madrid is “willing to put all eggs in one basket for Mirotic.”
The same article throws out that the Bulls could pay him $10 million per season, which is a figure deemed “impossible” to compete with for Real Madrid.
In the Daily Herald, Mike McGraw has quotes Hector Fernandez, a man self-described as Mirotic’s best friend. He says Niko is all about the Bulls.
“Niko is a winner. He has born for competition. He wants to win in every aspect,” Fernandez said. “He is ready for the NBA adventure for sure. Since he was drafted, he’s been interested in Chicago. He knows everything about the team and also about the city and the number of Serbian people who live there.”
The thing about Mirotic is, if the Bulls do bring him over, he’s going to be the only real move that they make. With an amnesty of Carlos Boozer and a possible trade of Mike Dunleavy, the Bulls would find themselves with a little bit more than $13 million to work with to stay under the salary cap. I don’t know if Mirotic is actually going to get $10 million a year from the Bulls like Real Madrid expects, but even if he only gets $8 million, that would leave the Bulls with $5 million to fill out the rest of the roster.
I don’t think LeBron or Melo are signing for that.
If I had to guess what I think the Bulls would do during the offseason, I believe the first choice — we’re all just going to assume Boozer is gone because he will be — will be to go after LeBron and Carmelo. It seems like the logical first move because John Paxson and Gar Forman would have to believe that signing one of those two gets the Bulls closer to a title than Mirotic does.
I just don’t think they’ll be signing either, and that makes the whole debate over whether the Bulls should go after Carmelo fun. The odds are none of us will find out whether we were right, because he’s going to stay in New York. When it’s the last big contract of your career it’s hard to leave $30 million on the table.
But I digress.
Then, once its obvious Melo and LeBron aren’t coming, the Bulls will turn their attention to getting Mirotic to Chicago. And it’s a move that could pay big dividends down the road. What we know about Mirotic is that he’s played very well in Europe, and is a very talented young player (he’s only 23). It’s also a move that could mean nothing for the Bulls in the long run.
Yes, he’s played well in Europe, and yes, European players have come to the NBA and been incredibly successful. But for every Dirk Nowitzki there are a lot more role players. If Nikola comes over and plays at a Nowitzki-like level, well, we’re all going to be a bunch of very happy Bulls fans.
If he comes over and is just a solid player making about $8 million a year, well, then the Bulls have roughly $45 million a year tied up in Mirotic, Derrick Rose, Taj Gibson and an aging Joakim Noah over the next three years. And that’s not including a possible new deal for Jimmy Butler.
A nice core of players, sure, but not exactly a championship contender in a league dominated by LeBron James and Kevin Durant.
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