It has now been three years since the Bulls acquired the rights to Nikola Mirotic, and since then, Mirotic has blossomed into one of the best young players over in Europe with Real Madrid. The Bulls and their fans have been patient waiting for Mirotic, who appears like he would be a big help for a team that struggles to score.
With Mirotic finally off the rookie scale, this summer is the first one in which it would make sense for him to finally come over. But after all this time, there are still questions about whether or not Mirotic will be over in 2014. In the aftermath of the Bulls acquiring Doug McDermott, general manager Gar Forman did address Mirotic, saying they "still aren't sure" if the youngster will come over to the NBA this summer, according to ESPN Chicago's Nick Friedell.
This statement probably shouldn't come as much of a surprise, for several reasons. Mirotic does have that prohibitive buyout, and while there are reports that his contract in Real Madrid actually isn't that high and he could be had for less than initially expected, perhaps he'd prefer to wait to avoid paying that monster buyout.
Also playing into all this is just what the Bulls can even offer Mirotic. Since he's off the rookie scale, the Bulls can either sign him with cap space or an exception. The Bulls are currently over the cap, but a lot stands to change over the next few weeks, and it's unclear how Mirotic factors in the plans.
What appears to be the ideal situation for the Bulls is acquiring Carmelo Anthony in a sign-and-trade that keeps Chicago over the cap, which would allow the team to use its mid-level exception. It's still no guarantee that the MLE will be enough for Mirotic, but if the reports of his Real Madrid contract being smaller than expected are true, I would think it would work. The Bulls could also use some cap tricks to pay Mirotic more money up front to help with the buyout.
However, if the Bulls are forced to go way under the cap in efforts to sign Anthony, the mid-level exception goes away. If the Bulls then signed Anthony using all of the cap space, they would be limited to offering other free agents the room exception, which can be up to $2.732 million and for a maximum of two years. In that case, Mirotic isn't coming this season.
Theoretically, the Bulls could trade Taj Gibson for a future asset and then sell off other parts and potentially sign both Anthony and Mirotic with cap space, but that seems rather unlikely at this point. There's also the chance Mirotic could be used as part of a trade to acquire Anthony or Kevin Love, but again, that doesn't appear to be the plan for now.
In addition to an "update" about Mirotic's status heading into this offseason, we do also have an update about his play on the court. Mirotic and Real Madrid just finished up playing in the ACB Finals against Barcelona ... and things didn't go so well.
Real Madrid lost the series 3-1, and Mirotic's numbers weren't all that impressive, as he averaged just 7.5 points and 1.0 rebound. It is important to note that he played only about 16 minutes per game, but the minute rebounding numbers are somewhat concerning. It's also odd that he played so little in such important games considering how good he has been.
While Mirotic's rather poor finish his season is somewhat of a bummer, there's no reason to panic about him as a prospect. He's obviously extremely talented, and hopefully we'll get to see him in a Bulls uniform soon if he's not part of a trade for a star.