Something is wrong with Niko's game. KC Johnson nails it:
Like all teams, thehave areas of concern. Throw out his 20-point, 10 rebound effort from Nov. 9 in Philadelphia and is in a two-week slump. He has scored six points or fewer in five of the last six games and has missed 20 of 25 3-pointers in that stretch.
A quick glance at Mirotic's shooting stats from this season, and you can see the dreadfulness. He's currently shooting 27% from three, which is pretty hideous for anyone, let alone someone who is supposed to be regarded as the "stretch four" in Hoiberg's offense.
Another glance at his shot tracking shows that 77% of his shots come with 0 dribbles. The eye-test also confirms this. Niko is almost primarily being used as a spot-up 3-ball shooter. Mirotic has shown in the past that his game is more diverse than being used as a spot-up shooter. Can he be used in the post? Coming off of pin-downs? Should he be used more in the mid-range? All good questions to consider.
Another factor to think about is the surprise factor with Mirotic is now gone. Teams now have enough video, scouting, etc to know how to handle him. He simply is not going to sneak up on anyone this season.
Also, not to be discounted is Niko's defense. He has been missing defensive rotations regularly enough for it to be somewhat of a concern. His overall rebounding numbers are up from a season ago, so that is a positive to be pointed out. But his team defense and awareness on that side of the floor ultimately need to be improved. A starting lineup that contains Niko, Pau, and Doug is just not an optimal defensive lineup. Sometimes Rose can be included in that grouping as well (though he played good defense on Monta Ellis.)
I'm of the personal opinion that Niko should go down to the 2nd unit. This accomplishes a couple of things: (1) it gets Taj in with Pau. Taj appears to be rounding into form as of late and had his most consistent game of the season against the Pacers. An additional side-effect of starting Taj is that it also improves the defense. Though it can be argued as a counterpoint that Taj's presence also kills the spacing, which is a valid concern. (2) it gives Mirotic a chance to bum-slay against 2nd units. In the 2nd unit, Mirotic would/should be the primary scoring option on most nights. Perhaps Hoiberg could move Snell back to the 2nd unit in order to achieve more of a defense balance as well.
I certainly don't have the answers myself, but I'm wondering what the collective BaB users think would be the answer to improve Niko. There really are no wrong answers.
To be clear, this isn't meant as a Niko bash piece. I really want him to succeed. We can all agree that Nikola's improvement is much needed (required?) for the Bulls to have major success this season.