In Stephen Noh’s great piece in The Athletic about how to actually unleash Nikola Mirotic, there’s a worrisome quote from Fred Hoiberg:
I've played Niko at a lot of different positions. I've played him on the wing some so far in camp. We've got five guys who can play the four or five spot, really six with Paul Zipser. So Niko may have to play a little bit of 3 this year.
As Noh points out:
- Playing Mirotic at SF has never worked
- They spent the whole offseason bulking him up to better play PF
And, really: only the Bulls can spin an embarrassment of riches from an embarrassment.
But it’s kind of true? Especially after the buyout of Dwyane Wade, the Bulls guards and wings are totally bereft, but the bigs do present a lot of options. That’s never been Fred’s strong suit (can somebody please find that photoshop of him at Blockbuster Video?), and playing Mirotic at the 3 is a bad play for the team and for him.
Or maybe that’s ok, because the team doesn’t want to be good (just establish ‘culture’) , and they don’t have much of an investment in Mirotic to where it matters if his career continues to stall?
It is something to consider. Mirotic is pretty firmly a power forward, with Robin Lopez and Cristiano Felicio definitively centers (so much for 5-out Hoiball!). Tossing out Zipser entirely back to wing rotation only, it leaves Bobby Portis and Lauri Markkanen with flexible roles. Can they really play some center alongside Niko?
Or the answer comes from higher-up. Trading Lopez (which may be tough), giving up on Portis (a mistake, though I’m not a huge fan he’s only 22 years old), or putting Markkanen in the GLeague for now.