A theme I noticed over the weekend: people writing about Nikola Mirotic, and being quite excited in doing so.
Here's our pal Kevin Ferrigan at Hardwood Paroxsym's "sophomore crush" series (wait, it wasn't about McDermott?!?)
Mirotic showed off a wide variety of offensive skills, in addition to the expected floor stretching. Nikola was able to take smaller players to the post and score easily over them. He attacked hard closeouts with a pump fake and dribble drive, a move I must note he overused to point of hilarity, but which remained largely effective. More shockingly, the 6’10" forward was able to run pick-and-rolls as a ball handler with a shockingly high degree of competence and playmaking ability. There simply aren’t many players in the world with that size who can do that.
You can’t stick a smaller guy on him to stay in front of him, because he’ll post him and if you put a bigger guy on him to take away his advantage on the block, he’s going to blow by that big dude with ease. Mirotic is, quite simply, a problem for opposing defenses.
Later, in extrapolating some improvement in the actual shooting department, Kevin figures that Nikola could've gotten the Bulls 2 more wins last year if he was merely league-average from three. And that mark shouldn't be hard to achieve given his history overseas and shown skills.
Over at The Runner Sports, Patrick Murphy digs into Mirotic's rookie year with similar reviews. Though Mirotic proved his mettle especially in March when asked to do more in the face of teammates' injuries, he also helped the Bulls star backcourt as a complimentary player:
Mirotic's ability to stretch the floor as a power forward helps Derrick Rose penetrate. While I have made it clear that Derrick Rose greatly benefits Jimmy Butler, sharing the floor with Nikola Mirotic helps him as well. Take a look at these numbers:
Derrick Rose With Niko Without Niko Difference At Rim FG % 69.6% 51.7% 17.9% Playoff FG % 48.9% 37.4% 11.5% Jimmy Butler With Niko Without Niko Difference Playoff FG % 51.1% 42.3% 8.8% Playoff 3-point FG % 57.1% 34.5% 22.6%
Although these playoff numbers come from a small sample size, it still shows Niko’s benefit to Rose and Butler. He creates so much space on the floor that Rose and Butler have much more room to operate. And when these two players have space, watch out.
And lastly, Morten Stig Jensen at Bulls Confidential takes special note of the two ways Mirotic stays efficient even while missing more shots than you'd think. With more minutes, Mirotic has a chance to average 6 threes and 6 free-throws a game, a rare feat for a big man. I also appreciate the possible comp to 2-time All-Star Paul Millsap.