Struggling to remain a viable postseason contender, it’s been a season of regret for the Chicago Bulls.
Other than the “continued” uprising of All-Star forward Jimmy Butler, the Bulls have dealt with numerous front-office implosions, to locker-room antics between players. They’re a complete disaster.
And while their chances of a postseason birth are looking improbable, Chicago could look to shut-down their veterans for the remainder of the season.
And with the possibilities of certain shut-downs for key-players, I’ll expect to see more playing time between younger guards such as Michael Carter-Williams, Jerian Grant, Cameron Payne, and as well as rookie Denzel Valentine.
Whether Bulls head coach Fred Hoiberg does decide to pull the trigger on his best players, more minutes will be allocated into the hands of third-year power forward Nikola Mirotic — who will need more touches than any of his other Chicago teammates right now.
Since the Bulls decided to part-ways with longtime power forward Taj Gibson, sending him to the Oklahoma City Thunder at this year’s trade-deadline, the door has opened for Mirotic — as Chicago is struggling to find consistent outside shooting as a whole. However, Mirotic hasn’t necessarily brought it at a consistent level during his first three-seasons. And for the 2016-17 season, it’s been much of the same.
In his rookie season, the former 23rd overall pick of the 2014 NBA Draft averaged a considerably-good 10.2 points on 31% shooting from three, and added 4.9 rebounds. His sophomore season (2015-16) Mirotic upped his scoring to 11.8 points on 39% from three, as well as 5.5 rebounds. But as this season has came along, many of those averages have slipped.
MIROTIC PRE ALL-STAR (48 games): 22.5 minutes, 9.0 points, 38% field-goals, 29% three-point field-goals, +/- of 1.2
MIROTIC POST ALL-STAR (14 games): 27.0 minutes, 14.0 points, 49% field-goals, 40% three-point field-goals, +/- of 5.5
As of late, Mirotic has found himself into a great rhythm — arguably his best of any stretch he’s played this year. In his last five games, he’s been red-hot with averages of 16.8 points on 59% shooting, and 51% from three.
- 24 points, 11 rebounds, 8-16 shooting, and 5-12 from three. Bulls defeat the Charlotte Hornets 115-109 on March 13th.
- 28 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 steals, on 12-15 shooting, and 4-6 from three. Bulls defeat the Detroit Pistons 117-95 on March 22nd.
- 28 points, 8 rebounds, 11-14 shooting, 6-9 from three. Bulls defeat the Milwaukee Bucks 109-94 on March 26th.
(The Bulls are 5-0 when Mirotic scores 20 or more in a game.)
For a player who’s game fits so perfectly in today’s NBA (which preferably made him such an intriguing prospect coming into the 2014 Draft), Mirotic can provide a slew of versatility at the offensive end. He ultimately specializes from that left-corner three, where he’s shooting 49% (25-51) overall.
As a restricted free-agent this upcoming summer, Nikola is remaping up his play at just the right time. He could be seeking great offers from other teams in July, but whether Gar Forman and John Paxson have been pleased with the 26 year-old’s overall development, is heavily considered.
Chicago has one final run to chase after the eighth-and-final spot in the Eastern Conference. With nothing set in stone, the Bulls will have six of their next nine games against other teams below .500, which could give them the edge.