Pau Gasol and Doug McDermott are bigger names than Nikola Mirotic, and the 2014 Spanish League MVP has flown somewhat under the radar as a result. But if Joakim Noah’s glowing sentiments are any indication, Mirotic might be the Chicago Bulls’ biggest offseason acquisition after all.
Following his first practice with the 23 year-old Mirotic, Noah showered the former first-round pick with praise:
"You don’t think of a stretch-fours as guys that can block shots, run the floor, and he can … he’s a hell of a player.’’ Noah on Mirotic.
— Sun-Times Basketball (@suntimes_hoops) October 1, 2014
The “hell of a player” thing is what sticks out here on the surface, and it’s easy to see why. Noah isn’t the type to embellish or offer lip service in general – when he says something, you can bet there’s real reason behind it.
Stylistically, though, it’s the other stuff that gets us excited about what the Bulls could do offensively this season. Tom Thibodeau’s Chicago teams have always fell victim to a lack of spacing, a problem due as much to a lack of consistent perimeter threats as any impactful stretch whatsoever from the frontcourt. Noah, Taj Gibson, Carlos Boozer, and company are and were effective offensive players for the Bulls, but their collective inability to threaten defenses from 15-feet and out has severely limited what Chicago can do offensively – whether Derrick Rose was healthy and playing or not.
Of the reasons so many people are rightfully excited about the acquisition of Gasol is because he’s a very good mid-range jump-shooter. Combined with his prowess as a playmaker and viable back-to-the-basket game, he’s a near perfect alongside Noah or Gibson.
But if Mirotic proves to be as versatile and athletic as Noah says, it will be very difficult for Thibodeau to keep him off the floor. Three-point range is one of the rookie’s biggest strengths; he shot a scorching 46.1 percent from the international three-point line in 2013-2014. Should Mirotic’s effectiveness from beyond the arc even roughly translate stateside, he’ll provide the Bulls the spacing they’ve been absent for so long.
Noah, though, seems adamant that Mirotic is so much more than a spot-up shooter. Billed as a big forward capable of putting the ball on the floor and making plays for his teammates, questions surrounding Mirotic have been due to his supposedly middling athleticism and lack of interior physicality. Noah makes neither seem an issue, though – running the floor quickly and blocking shots against NBA competition doesn’t suggest either deficiency.
Like all rookies, Mirotic is likely due a major adjustment this season. But considering his previously advertised talent combined with this praise from Noah, perhaps it’s time to consider the potential influence of Mirotic when assessing the legitimacy of Chicago’s championship hopes.
What do you think?
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