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The first time I saw Nikola Mirotic was in a small gym in Rho a small suburban town of Milan,Italy back in 2006. He was a tall lanky skilled combo forward playing on a cadet team for Real Madrid. You can tell off the bat he would be a very good pro prospect even at the age of 16. He had a knack for scoring , but just flat out knew how to play. He was MVP for that event and I knew he would be in the NBA very soon.
Fast forward to the 2011 NBA Draft Mirotic was originally drafted by the Houston Rockets with the 23rd pick of the first round, but was traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves and then dealt to the Chicago Bulls.Mirotic was a very good draft pick by the Bulls. He is still playing in Spain for Real Madrid where he will continue to play in Europe’s top league and develop his skills. He reminds me a lot of Ryan Anderson, a big lanky forward that can step out and make deep shots. At 6’10 and NBA 3 point range, Nikola is a very good prospect. The reason why he’s such a good player is that he makes winning basketball plays. He can step out and make shots and also space the floor allowing other plays to happen. He doesn’t need to have plays run to him constantly to be effective. Mirotic is a very smart basketball player that will add depth to The Bulls when he eventually makes his way to the NBA.
Players and coaches take notice at his activity level. As a big man even though he’s more of a perimeter threat runs the floor on every possession to force defenders to bump him and leave other players in transition. Nikola is always ready to get his shot off and wastes very little time and motion while doing so. On pick and pops he spaces the floor and clears room between him and the ball handler forcing defenders to have to rotate long to get him opening up driving opportunities. Even though he’s mostly a perimeter threat Mirotic also has a good package of moves to go to on the block.
His shooting is what gets him into an NBA game today and his basketball IQ is what will make him a threat whenever he steps on the floor. At some point I think he’ll be able to play full time small forward because of his ability to make shots and space the floor. For now he can play either forward spot and be a matchup issue for opponents for years to come.