Nikola Mirotic is feeling himself right now, that’s for sure:
I’m playing with a lot of confidence. Some of you thought I was joking. But I was not joking. I was very, very serious. I told you we were going to be 4-0. We have to keep building from this.
Some tough games are coming now. But with me back, we have more chances now.
In the four games since he returned from the facial fractures and concussion injuries that sidelined him for most of the season, he’s averaged 19.5 points per game on 57.1 percent from the field while shooting 52.2 percent from beyond the arc.
In the Bulls 103-100 win against the Utah Jazz last night, Mirotic dropped 29 points on an efficient 11-for-18 from the field while collecting nine rebounds in the process.
Mirotic has flashed several different layers of his offensive game that we’ve seen over his first three seasons in the league, though never that consistently. A new, starring role in year four has helped his offense blossom. He was the 6th man in 2 games, then had the starting job for the next 2. His usage rate so far is a career-high 25.4 percent.
Mirotic has always played well when is a focal point of the offense and isn’t relegated to just being a shooter. He’s a scorer, has been from his rookie season— Mark (@mkhoops) December 14, 2017
Increased isolation opportunities have manifested from Mirotic’s new role. According to NBA.com, in these past four games 10.2 percent of his possessions are isolations, and he’s scoring 1.67 points per possession on these plays. Compare this to 2016-2017 when only 2.6 percent of his possessions were isolations and 2015-2016 when only 3.9 percent were isolations and it’s easy to see that there’s an increased emphasis to let him make plays in these sets.
A lot was made of all the extra, healthy weight that Mirotic put on this summer. The hard work has already paid dividends for him this year. Per a Chuck Swirsky interview on the Bulls official Twitter page.
“I knew I had to be better in the low post,” Nikola Mirotic said. “Last year, a lot of those guys were switching on me because they knew I wasn’t going to go to the post. I did work a lot during the summer improving my game in the low post. Now when they switch on me, (teammates) can find me in the low post and I’m going to have an ability to score.
Mirotic balling again. 14 points in 16 minutes so far. pic.twitter.com/wzU6sbWpOb— Stephen Noh (@StephNoh) December 14, 2017
Of course, the meat and potatoes of Mirotic’s game is always going to be the 3-point shooting. Per NBAsavant.com.
He’s still shooting deep threes, and he has shot most of his threes from the top of the key as opposed to the shorter (and more efficient) corners. Yet, he’s shooting 52.2 percent from beyond the arc for a True Shooting Percentage over 70%. He’s not pump faking anymore and that could explain why he’s been in such a rhythm with his shooting. Or it’s just a hot 4 games.
Finally, Mirotic has expanded his game to include the mid-range jumper this season (ten feet from the basket to the 3-point line for the purposes of this article). According to Basketball-Reference.com, almost one quarter of his shot attempts (24.5 percent) have come from this range this season. In his first three seasons, the percentage of shots he took from this range hovered between 12 and 15 percent of his total shot attempts. Adding this mid-range dimension creates unpredictability around his game.
If Mirotic continues to play like this, will the Bulls reconsider the value of trading Mirotic this season even if Bobby Portis sticks around? The Bulls may get something of value for Mirotic plus help their lottery odds by excising him from the rotation. But remember, Mirotic still would have to approve any trade, and he seems to be enjoying himself in Chicago again.
Niko Mirotic on #Bulls' playing style: "Finally, we are playing the game everybody is expecting us to play -- that was the pace, sharing the ball, making threes, playing fun basketball. At the end of the day, if we get a win, we need to have fun."— Cody Westerlund (@CodyWesterlund) December 14, 2017