FanPost

To Whom it may concern: Nikola Mirotic

Note: this is not an advertisement post; this is mainly informal for a attractive and hopefully successful prospect.
The 2011 may seem miles away, but in a zapping-quick media, it helps to stay on top of the drafting game -- even when the main issue may not be the draft.

Nikola Mirotic: Assuming you haven't heard Mirotic is not your average Montenegrin hometown hero: his skills are superior to most other bigs and his game whistles a sweet melody. He's smooth and fun to watch. Does that mean this is a PR move? No.

First, let's sum it up: Nikola Mirotic:

Height: 6-10

Weight: 225

Team: Real Madrid

Everyone is gaga for strengths, but let's start with teams' real concerns, the weaknesses:

While he can run the floor and has some athleticism, he is not a speed demon nor does he possess good jumping ability ...

He's not as athletic as a Motiejunas(Donatas) or Vesley(Jan) which is synonymous with his draft rank: 58 rather than higher.

... Lacks the body strength to do much inside ...

He isn't a promo-strength type such as Jared Sullinger would be, and it is a major concern. Strength issues may seem a repetitive and sometimes uneccessary concern at this level, but it is definitely a huge tool in the eyes of the pros. The transition from the Euro's to the America is that of a gentle stream to a powerful river: the transition is a major concern and prospects such as Mirotic are prone to to hit the potholes in the road.

... For a player with his talents he can disappear from time to time ...

Since Greg Monroe, scouts go breathless when they hear 'inactive'. Not that Monroe is a bust or ineffective, but that players who disappear get questioned for their love of the game and their tenacity. Mirotic isn't fercious at all: in fact, he can at times be lackadaisical. The fact that he isn't active, at his height and overall size is a major red-flag.

... While he is a tremendously skilled player he does not have any post moves and is a 6"10 player who gets most of his scoring opportunities from the perimeter or fast breaks ...

Must I write it any more blatantly? HE'S NOT A BIG MAN. Mirotic isn't Motiejunas to post-up and sport a 12-15 foot turnaround jumpshot not is he Vesley to pound his man in the paint and turn-around and hook the ball in. His game is that of a Mike Dunleavy: shoot the ball and take your man off the dribble, at most.

 

In short, he's packing potential, but he lacks any soundness in the post or mid-range to say he's a legit big-man. He's not a hugely coveted prospect because his weight and strength shows his high-bust potential. And his game is comparable to that of a Dunleavy.

Through the storm of negatives, let's try to find some positives to recognize Mirotic:

When you're 6-10, with a great frame, a 7-1 wingspan and good mobility, and you just turned 20 years old, scouts tend to take notice; especially when you're putting those numbers up against the best competition in the world outside the NBA.

Mirotic was efficient and productive for his team, making arguably the best team in Europe better. He didn't come in and turn the tides for his team the way a Kawhi Leanord did, but he made a great team better.

Now for the question most scouts ask first for big women or men: why is she or he a mismatch threat?

With his excellent size and quick release, Mirotic is a tough matchup for most big men, especially since he's very adept at using shot-fakes and taking the ball to the basket. He has a nice first step and solid ball-handling skills. He's generally a very fundamentally sound player. He has an excellent feel for the game and plays relatively mistake-free. 

 In addition:

Mirotic is not a prolific threat with his back to the basket, but he can finish in a variety of ways around the hoop – be it a jump hook, a pretty floater or an elegant scoop-shot off the glass.

So, Mirotic isn't totally a non-threat from the foul-line-under. He has a decent game under-the-basket, but doesn't dominate, which still stands as a red-flag.
So, what does this *kid do?
Offensively, Mirotic acts mostly as a floor spacer for Real Madrid. He sees most of his possessions spotting up on the wing, cutting to the basket and finishing off of pick and rolls. He's converted 42% (22-of-53) of his jumpers on the season and is extremely reliable with his feet set. He has also shown consistent range out to the 3-point line.

 
Since it's not really arguable that 7'ers that shoot jumpshots can't be successful in the league (Bargnani, Bosh, Nowitzki, e.g.) the fact is that Mirtotic must either change his game or become a deadly jumpshooter, or learn to dramatically improve his moving without the ball.
It's definitely not a bad jumpshot for teams to rely on.

 

For nbadraft.net, only Jimmer Freddette ranks as the only other prospect to rank ten out of ten in the 'Jumpshot' section. DraftExpress calls him a 'floor spacer'. I'm not asking you to look out for another Nowitzki, I'm watching a possibly solid prospect in the league. 

Think it's not necessary to have a Euro big option? DraftExpress disagrees:

Every good team these days needs at least one skilled big man in their rotation who can space the floor and attack opposing players in mismatch situations, and Mirotic seems to fit the bill to a T based on what we're seeing.


But he didn't put up good numbers:19.8 p40, 8.7 r40 on a bad team or by himself: despite only playing 14mpg (not due to lack of conditioning) he played next to former NBA prospect Ryan Richards.

So what is so exciting about his potential?

He can score, and is a very sound shooter with a quick release. There's no question he can get his shot off in the league, in most cases. However, his low-post game is undeveloped. What about the defensive end?

For one, he's just an average defensive rebounder, ranking in the middle of the pack in this category amongst ACB and Euroleague power forwards. He has been improving as the year has progressed but is somewhat limited by his average athleticism (by NBA standards) in this area.

Again, Nikola is not a big man. Don't rate him aloft the tendencies you would find in a regular big man in terms of size, rebounding, and post moves. He's a mismatch threat.
Lacking a degree of explosiveness, Mirotic is a smart defender and uses his size and length well in the passing lanes and on the glass, but lacks the tools to be too effective in one-on-one situations.
One big concern is if teams can actually bring him over: Mirotic's contract still has another two years, meaning he could pull a Ricky Rubio. It's not necessarily a situation already in worst-case, but it isn't                                   
Mirotic is decent defensively and has a huge body (6-10 with a 7-1 wingspan). He can absolutely shoot the ball, and for anyone that's seen him dominate, they're questioning why (aside from his stats) he's not a higher draft-ranked player. In fact, in the last two drafts, only Stephen Curry, Jimmer Freddette and he ranked at such a high jumpshot. He's a very deadly three-point shooter. However, he's not a rebounder nor does he have the tools to be an elite defender.
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