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The Struggles Of Nikola Mirotic
- Updated: February 16, 2017
With the All-Star break quickly approaching this weekend, the Chicago Bulls have one final game tonight against the well-balanced Boston Celtics. The Bulls had some early success against Boston, besting them in their first encounter. Tonight, however, will be a completely different story from that earlier result. Boston struggled some during the first parts of the season, but now they are the second best team in the Eastern Conference behind the Cleveland Cavaliers. Isaiah Thomas has now emerged as the second best scorer in the entire NBA, and the Boston Celtics as a whole are playing some of the best team basketball they have played in recent years. The Bulls will have to perform and execute their game plan perfectly in order to have a chance to take away some of Boston’s momentum. This is especially true with Dwyane Wade missing another game tonight. The player that I am going keep an eye on, as he returns from injury, is Nikola Mirotic. He will also be the primary focus of this article as well. I want to express my thoughts on how his tenure with the Bulls has failed to live up to expectation and how it’s possible we could be seeing the last of him.
Nikola Mirotic is currently in his third season as a Chicago Bull, and I’m not going to act like he is completely terrible as a player, because he is far from that. I am going to talk about how he always makes you want more from him. It started with him getting a ton of hype and praise from those who closely followed his career in Montenegro as he developed into the two-time Euroleague MVP. He was a skilled big man that could hit jump shots from all over the floor, along with a nice mixture of post moves depending on the situation and scenario he was in. Now granted, he has shown flashes of his potential and offensive ability on numerous occasion, even clocking in multiple 20-point efforts last season, he just can’t seem to figure out a way to sustain consistency, and because of this, you never know what you are going to get from him game to game.
The Bulls have been in the midst of figuring out their identity for quite some time now, and having a key player struggle halfway through his third season will never help the situation.
On top of that, the overall dysfunction of the organization isn’t exactly the road to recovery either. Mirotic struggles to stay consistent as well on defense. There will be a lot of people who say that he, along with Doug McDermott, is terrible on defense, but I slightly disagree with this premise. This statement can hold true with Doug without much debate, but when it comes to Niko, he has shown on a different number of occasions that he can make some big defensive plays when engaged and ready. Being 6’10, he is able to at least get out to other big man shooters to contest, and he is quick for a big when it comes to getting steals and deflections. He isn’t exactly terrible on defense like you would call McDermott, but again his problem is that he can’t display his strengths consistently enough to effectively alter the game in favor of his team.
The same applies to his offensive outlook more than anything else. His role on the team is to be a scorer off the bench, reason being he has a very capable scoring ability. Last year he shot 39% from 3 while playing 66 games. With the last place numbers the Bulls have when it come to three-point shooting and three-point makes, Chicago would love to have him shoot somewhere near that percentage again this season. That is when you notice that part of the reason they are struggling is because Mirotic went from finishing the season last year at 39% from 3 to shooting just 30% from 3 at the All-Star break. So far, most of Mirotic’s scoring numbers are all down from a year ago, and it would take an incredible second half of the season for him to surpass his stats from last year. Now, as a restricted free agent this summer, and the trade deadline a week away, we will soon see how much the Bulls believe in Mirotic’s ability to finally figure it out.
The Bulls organization knows that they are under a lot of pressure to perform at a high level as a franchise. Many fans around Chicago are starting to get more and more disgruntled with how the franchise is being run from top to bottom. Changes will be made in Chicago maybe as soon as the trade deadline, but for sure around draft time and free agency. The team is underperforming and with this particular season more than others, Chicago fans are more impatient with Bulls management, coaches, and players now more than ever.