FanPost

R.I.P: Nikola Mirotic's Career in Chicago?

It's bad enough when Nikola Mirotic receives a DNP-CD so that Joffrey Lauvergne can eat up almost 29 minutes of playing time while posting a box Plus/Minus of -8. It's even worse when this happens two games in a row.

However, it's another thing entirely when Mirotic fails to make the active roster after those two DNP-CDs, like he did in the Chicago Bulls embarrassing 100-80 loss against the Boston Celtics on Sunday afternoon. Among the NBA superstars that made the Bulls active roster over Mirotic on Sunday were Isaiah Canaan, Lauvergne, Michael Carter-Williams and Bobby Portis.

Mirotic's unceremonious descent from averaging 9.8 points on 44.4 percent from the field (32.1 percent from 3-point land) over the six games prior to the two DNP-CDs and then failing to even make the active roster on Sunday has been ruthlessly sudden.

Worse from Mirotic's viewpoint, head coach Fred Hoiberg hasn't sufficiently communicated with him the reason behind the sudden demotion, compounding the Montenegrin's building frustration.

Have the Bulls given up on their formerly exalted European prize? Is this benching temporary like when he received two consecutive DNP-CDs in mid-December or have the Bulls finally abandoned the Nikola Mirotic experiment?

Is Mirotic Benched For the Long Term?

Mirotic hasn't seen playing time in three consecutive games, and this unhappy streak may not end in the near future.

He [head coach Fred Hoiberg] told me that I'm out of the rotation. That I need to stay ready, but he didn't give me any expectation that I would [or] when I can play. Just 'stay ready.'

I know that I'm ready. I know I can help those guys. Of course I've been inconsistent, not just me, all the team up and down -- but to be in this kind of situation, out of the rotation, doesn't make sense for me.

-Quote courtesy of ESPN writer Nick Friedell

It's a stunning development for a player that finished second in Rookie of the Year voting in 2014-2015 and led the NBA in fourth quarter scoring during March of that same season. Mirotic is a guy that has shot over 40 percent from 3-point land across an entire month five times (minimum five games) during his 2.5-year career. The talent is there, it just gets lost beneath the inconsistencies and all those ugly pump fakes.

All that talent and potential could now go by the wayside if the Bulls continue to bench Mirotic the rest of the season.

Why did this happen?

Mirotic's demotion comes on the heels of his awful beginning to the month of March. In three games this month, he has averaged 6.3 points on 34.8 percent from the field and an ugly 15.4 percent from 3-point range in 20.1 minutes of playing time per game. Since Jan. 1, Mirotic has posted double-digit scoring in only nine of 22 games (40.4 percent) and has shot the ball 39.4 percent from the field and 29.4 percent from 3-point land during this stretch.

Another variable that has factored into Mirotic's recent benching is the front office's obsession with developing the players they obtained in the recent trade with the Oklahoma City Thunder. Cameron Payne has received 15.4 minutes of playing time per game since he came to Chicago, while Joffrey Lauvergne has averaged 20.7 minutes in three games since taking Mirotic's spot in the lineup.

As I openly wondered in my last article, is the Chicago Bulls front office force feeding these players minutes in an effort to catalyze their development so the trade that brought them to Chicago looks less lopsided in favor of the Thunder? Regardless of the answer to this question, the Bulls have clearly prioritized Payne's and Lauvergne's development, and this has spelled doom for Mirotic.

Should the Bulls Give Up on Mirotic?

Sky-high expectations accompanied Mirotic to Chicago when he finally arrived in the United States during the summer of 2014. His three years with the Bulls have left a lot to be desired although he has shown flashes of greatness during his time with the team. He's always just been too inconsistent to reach his ceiling.

With that being said, is the demotion warranted? Is Mirotic a worse basketball player than Joffrey Lauvergne and Isaiah Canaan? Player Efficiency Rating (PER) is about as encompassing of a statistic as you can get in basketball, and Mirotic's PER suggests that he does more to help this team win than many of the players who remain in the rotation while he sits.

Furthermore, although inconsistent, Mirotic can be a lethal shooter who can help open up the Bulls offense with his floor spacing. The Bulls need shooters to complement Jimmy Butler, and Mirotic and Butler have an 111.5 offensive rating in 698 minutes playing together (highest among Bulls two-man pairings who have played at least 100 minutes together this season) and the duo has posted an 11.0 net rating.

Even if the Bulls want to continue to develop Lauvergne, there is a role somewhere for Mirotic. Although he has struggled this season, Mirotic fits well in the offensive system Hoiberg has supposedly tried to implement with this team, and at 25 years old there is still time for Mirotic to improve as his career progresses. Throughout their respective careers, Mirotic has been a better 3-point shooter than Lauvergne, and the more dynamic scorer. If you think Mirotic looks lost defensively, consider that opponents' offensive ratings increase by 3.6 points when Lauvergne is on the floor while in contrast the Bulls have actually been better defensively in terms of limiting opponents' offensive rating when Mirotic plays.

It is difficult to justify why the Bulls have given up on a player who isn't a lost cause.

As Bulls HQ writer Mark Karantzoulis wrote at the end of February, ten more made 3-pointers across the course of the season changes the entire perception of Mirotic. He has made 79/262 3-pointers this season (30.2 percent) but if he makes just ten more to increase his total to 89/262 he is a 34 percent 3-point shooter (which is his career average) and we probably cut the narrative that his shot is broken.

Are we going to give up on Mirotic over ten 3-pointers? Seems kind of silly especially when the player we are abandoning him for is Joffrey Lauvergne.

What happens next?

If the Bulls stick to their guns and bench Mirotic or use him in an extremely limited role for the remainder of the season, then they need to part ways with him this summer. Mirotic becomes a restricted free agent, and matching an offer sheet from an opposing team for a player that you essentially gave up on would be beyond stupid.

If Mirotic isn't part of the future plans then admit that a rebuild needs to happen because Mirotic (along with guys like Doug McDermott and Tony Snell) were supposed to be the next wave of young players that would eventually develop into contributing pieces on a championship caliber team. The Bulls need to find more guys that can step into the role that McD, Snell and Niko were supposed to fill and find another star to play alongside Butler and that will require a rebuild.

If the Bulls continue to treat Mirotic this way, the team should tank and just work on giving as many guys as possible playing time. Enough of this contending for the playoffs crap, pick a path and stick to it. Stop middling.

Of course, I'm not completely convinced that Mirotic can't be part of a Chicago Bulls rebuild. Lauvergne also becomes a restricted free agent this summer, so there is a bit of a decision looming regarding whose offer sheet the Bulls decide to pick up (although if I was a betting man I'm going Lauvergne all the way). However, if the Bulls are dead set on developing the new trade acquisitions at the expense of Mirotic then don't dare sign him to an extension this summer.

FanPosts are user-created posts from the BlogABull community, and are to be treated as the opinions and views of that particular user, not that of the blogger or blog community as a whole.