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Nikola Mirotic could be the key...if his role hasn’t been too diminished

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Three-kola? Or stand and wait behind three-kola?

Chicago Bulls v Indiana Pacers Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

BaB contributor George ‘easy‘ Eisner had a nice breakdown of Nikola Mirotic on BBallBreakdown (apt!). As pointed out by Tyler earlier this week, Niko is one of the few young variables that could evaluate positively on the team in this otherwise pointless season. He had a very good end of the season (though we should remain vigilantly skeptical when stats come in games against the Knicks in March while the team spiraled out of the playoff race) , and a couple really nice games in this year’s Olympics for Spain.

But the questions surround his role this upcoming season with new teammates:

What will be crucial to the team’s success going forward will be for him to put on weight so he can become more involved in pick & roll/fade sets. Mirotic shoots almost 95 percent of his attempts from distance off of assists, but what’s most remarkable about that is he does so while rarely coming out of setting a screen.

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Last season, Mirotic only served as the roll-man on 7.6 percent of his possessions, which was next to last on the Bulls behind Jimmy Butler. Now that Gasol has moved on to the San Antonio Spurs, Mirotic must assume the role of the primary scoring-screener in Chicago’s offense, given Lopez’s inability to score outside of the paint.

There’s also due credit given to Mirotic as a defender, which I agree isn’t so bad it can’t be mitigated against elsewhere in the lineup (not having Gasol alongside him will only help).

We’ll see if Mirotic playing alongside the Three Alphas (I admit, I love using that passive-aggressive monicker...) provides multiple dynamic pick and roll partners for Mirotic to expand his game, or if it will instead restrict him to standing in the corner only to wait for bail-out attempts at the end of the shot clock.

Last season was a disaster for Mirotic, but I thought it wasn’t too damning for his long-term prospects. To me it would’ve been preferable to build around him and Butler, to see if in an expanded role Mirotic is going to be worth the gigantic raise he may be due next offseason. Instead he’ll have to adapt to 2 additional guys who will want the ball in their hands, though mastering that structure could be of greater team benefit.