The Niko Dilemma

At the beginning of the summer, Bulls power forward Nikola Mirotic became a free agent. Like so many of his colleagues in the NBA, he was expecting a bidding war for his services and a fat contract by the end of the summer. Neither the bidding war nor the contract have yet to materialize for Niko. With less than a month until the start of preseason basketball, some people are questioning whether the Bulls should re-sign him. It’s easy for me to see why some fans might feel this way.

Niko Mirotic is the textbook definition of “inconsistent.”

For the past 3 seasons his defensive play and offensive shooting has put him in and out of games like a left foot dancing the Hokey-Pokey. On offense, Niko is at his best when he is shooting from beyond the 3 point line with reckless abandon, or pump faking defenders and driving past them for easy layups. Unfortunately, Niko is also at his worst when he is shooting with reckless abandon from beyond the 3 point arc, or driving to the hoop after suckering a fool on his goofy pump fake. You cannot trust that any shot he throws up will drop. Inconsistency is also the hallmark of Niko’s defense. Some nights he shows good defensive ability on the perimeter, staying in front of his man when on the ball or closing out quickly on shooters. Other nights he’s a human turnstile-outmaneuvered and over-matched by his opponent. Why would the Bulls want to keep Niko on the team?

Niko Mirotic can be the best player on a bad rebuilding team.

Niko needs confidence. He needs to know he is THE MAN, the go-to guy, the only player the team can count on to get points. I think Niko will thrive on offense if he is NEEDED. The Bulls will be in that situation after they buy out Dwayne Wade, they will NEED Niko to score. When Niko’s offensive game is working he picks up the defensive intensity as well. With his confidence up as the number one scoring option on the team, Niko could easily average 17+ points a game (He already averages 17 points per 36 minutes). A win-win for all involved, because the best case scenario for the Bulls is simple…

Niko Mirotic must be traded for young talented players or draft picks.

The Bulls are rebuilding. In order to hasten a return to glory, the Bulls need to re-sign Niko Mirotic to a one year “show me” contract. Niko Mirotic needs to be very good. He needs to play so well that a playoff contending team thinks they need Niko to win a championship. The Bulls must fleece trade with the playoff contending team for young, talented players or draft picks (I know, “picks” is plural, Niko needs to be that good).

Niko Mirotic is Frustrating.

The plan is simple, but nothing about Niko Mirotic is simple. The question for the Bulls, Bulls fans, and Niko Mirotic himself is this: can we trust Niko to play consistently good basketball?

History sure enjoys dancing the Hokey-Pokey.