All the talk in Bulls Land is about Jimmy Butler, but don't forget about Serbian forward Nikola Mirotic.
At least in the tiny pocket of the world that the Chicago Bulls currently occupy, the past few days have been all about Jimmy Butler. The 30th overall pick watched the BET Awards at D. Rose's pad, held up a jersey at the Berto Center, and saw his incredible backstory become fodder for every local media outlet around. As if the "Blindside" parallels could get any more stark, his adopted mother even *looks* like the real life Leigh Anne Tuohy. But while Butler is enjoying a few well-deserved days in the sun before he (probably) embarks on a training camp battle with Rasual Butler for the right to be the 11th man in a 10-man rotation, the Bulls' other first round selection last Thursday, Serbian forward Nikola Mirotic, was nowhere to be seen.
Bulls fans should get used to it: because of his youth and current contract with Spanish league powerhouse Real Madrid, the 20-year old likely won't receive face-time around Chicago anytime soon. But that doesn't mean it was a pick that lacked foresight. Who knows, the Bulls may have found themselves a keeper.
Matt from Blog-a-Bull -- OG BaB readers get to go on a first name basis -- joked that the Bulls' draft was an 'F-minus-minus-minus' and that Mirotic won't be rocking a Chicago jersey this decade. It's true, the buyout with his current club is sizable ($2 million) and he's on the books there through 2015. But in a draft as weak as this one, wasn't taking a flyer on a young Euro a worthwhile gamble?
I think it was. Any ESPN pundit with a good haircut or loser with a Twitter account could have told you this draft was weak, maybe even historically so. I covered Iman Shumpert back when he was the star of Oak Park-River Forest high school, and the dude wasn't even particularly good back then. Now he's going to the Knicks as the 17th overall pick. As Sun-Times prep sports editor Michael O'Brien reminded me, Shumpert's defining high school moment was when current Illini star Brandon Paul dropped 36 on him in a loss for OPRF. Paul hasn't forgotten either.
So yeah, the standards were low here. Given the Bulls' lofty status among the league's elite and the shallowness of the overall talent pool, the Mirotic pick makes sense, even if we're waiting two, three, or four years for him to come over. Filling a roster with mediocre pieces is for underachieving nerds like Daryl Morey; another warm body isn't going to help the Bulls' chances next season. They need actual talent. Gar Forman didn't believe there was anyone available at No. 23 who could make a difference this season or next. Again, when Shumpert is going No. 17, it's hard to fault the Bulls' GM.
So what do we know about Mirotic? Well, not a ton, but most of the reports have been fawning. Doug Thonus at Bulls Confidential rounded up some good information that you should probably check out. Here's what Forman had to say about his first rounder:
"He's a 6-foot-10-inch power forward who has a great offensive package," Forman said. "He shoots it with range. He can handle and pass. He's already playing at a high level in the Euroleague in the ACB, which is probably the second-strongest league in the world behind the NBA. Historically, it's very unusual for players of that age to be playing such a significant role at that level."
Sounds a little like Toni Kukoc, no? OK, so that comparison is lazy and probably insensitive, but it paints a nice picture in my brain so lets go with it. As the Bulls found out last season with Omer Asik, stashing away a foreign player can eventually pay dividends. With a young team that seems just as ready to win next season as five years from now, Mirotic's arrival may not feel as far away as it actually is.