• Nick Boylan

2019 NBA Free Agents: Nikola Mirotic


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Overview:

The NBA postseason can provide a platform for upcoming free agents to shine in the hopes of securing a larger contract. This bright lights of the playoffs can also shine a light on poor performers in a similarly obvious manner, and unfortunately the latter scenario is what unfolded for Nikola Mirotic.

After being traded from New Orleans to Milwaukee in February, Mirotic came to bolster the hot-shooting Bucks with even more long-range prowess, and it seemed like the perfect fit. Unfortunately, Mirotic’s performance in the Eastern Conference Finals against Toronto wasn’t the free-agency audition the big man had in mind.

In saying that, his poor finish to the year shouldn’t dampen his free-agency prospects too much. Mirotic fractured his thumb on March 20 (on his non-shooting hand), which could have had some impact on his rough postseason. The man from Montenegro has some highly sought-after qualities, and should still have a number of suitors who are looking for floor-spacing big men this summer.

Regular Season Per Game Stats: 15.2 points, 7.4 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 0.7 blocks and 0.7 steals on shooting splits of 43.9 FG%, 36.5 3P%, 84.7 FT%

Postseason stats (Milwaukee Bucks): 9.5 points, 4.3 rebounds, 0.7 assists, 0.2 blocks and 0.7 steals on shooting splits of 37.6 FG%, 28.9 3P%, 82.1 FT%

Age: 28

Strengths:

His nickname isn’t ‘Threekola’ because he has three heads. Mirotic is a pure stretch four, and with his 6”10 frame he is able to rise and fire with general ease, shooting a career average of 35.9 percent from three-point territory. He’s also attempted over 55 percent of his career field goals from beyond the arc, getting up an average of 5.4 three-point attempts per game; he put up 6.9 attempts from deep this season.

He’s also a microwave scorer who can heat up in a hurry, and Mirotic can certainly be classified as having a specialist skillset. After joining the Bucks, he posted the highest offensive rating in Milwaukee, at 115.4 points per 100 possessions. Milwaukee’s regular-season offense was already torching opponents, but it went to a new level with the newly acquired Mirotic.

Mirotic is the type of player who doesn’t need a lot of touches, and just needs a window of time and space to make defences pay from long-range. Coming off of curls, pick-and-pops or lurking in the corner – Mirotic can be deadly from long range.

Weaknesses:

Mirotic’s playoff performances showcased his streakiness, which has been the hallmark of his career thus far. Able to muster only 9.5 points on almost 38 percent from the field and 29 percent from downtown, Mirotic struggled mightily to get it going, especially in the Eastern Conference Finals against Toronto.

Mirotic is also not the best frontcourt defender. While not as bad as some people may think, he is definitely an offensively-minded four. Playing on the league’s best defensive team, many thought that coach Mike Budenholzer’s schemes and lengthy roster could hide Mirotic’s defensive shortcomings; alas, they could not, and this was especially evident against Toronto. So evident, in fact, that Mirotic’s performances against the Raptors led to him having to watch the remaining six quarters of their season from the bench.

Ideal Role:

While Mirotic had a shaky post-season performance, he can still be an offensive sparkplug for a team’s frontcourt, whether starting as a stretch four alongside a defensive-minded interior center, or providing scoring off the bench. Teams that can cover his defensive shortcomings will be better fits, allowing Mirotic to focus on shooting from long-range and providing great floor spacing.

Possible Landing Spots:

Milwaukee Bucks: While Mirotic’s disappointing finish against Toronto may have gotten him benched, there might be a slim possibility the Bucks decide to bring him back, especially if they are unable to hold onto Brook Lopez.

Dallas Mavericks: If the Mavericks strike out on swinging on some bigger name free agents (as can be the case in Dallas), Mirotic and Porzingis would make for an intriguing front-court. Sliding the returning Porzingis to the center position could be an interesting wrinkle we see from Rick Carlisle, and Mirotic would certainly give Luka Dončić another long-range weapon at his disposal.

Oklahoma City Thunder: With rumours swirling around regarding the possibility of the Thunder trading Steven Adams, OKC may look at bringing in some much needed shooting to surround Russell Westbrook and Paul George, which would unlock some much needed spacing.

Indiana Pacers: Creating a three-headed monster in Indiana’s frontcourt with Domantas Sabonis and Myles Turner could be a nice fit, either having Mirotic come off the bench or start next to Turner. A deadly pick-and-pop option for a returning Victor Oladipo, this fit in Indiana would certainly give Mirotic some great looks from beyond the 3-point line.

Expected Next Contract:

Mirotic made $12.5 million this past season, and he could earn a deal paying anywhere from $11 to $18 million per year, should a team wanting him badly enough. A two-year deal around $30 million seems to be a fair price for Mirotic’s services.

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