HANG TIME WEST – The Nikola Mirotic Watch is officially on, with an NBA.com story last week stating the No. 23 pick in the 2011 draft likely would have gone in the lottery had he waited a year to declare followed by a Chicago Tribune article that increases the spotlight on the Bull-in-waiting.
In short, if Mirotic is improving this much and is plotting an eventual jump to one of the prominent organizations in the NBA – and the world, thanks to the long-ago Michael Jordan branding – there will be a lot of eyes on him going forward. Plus, there is the wait that will also drive curiosity: the Tribune’s David Haugh reports the summer of 2013 appears to be the earliest Mirotic would leave Real Madrid in Spain and that ’14, two more seasons away and three since he was drafted, is possible.
“I can’t tell you right now when, but for sure I want to be totally ready when I take that step,” Mirotic told the Tribune. “Currently I have a contract with Real Madrid and personal and team goals that I’d like to achieve. I want to improve as a player, and to get this goal (of playing for the Bulls), it’s not advisable to go fast.”
Ettore Messina, the Real Madrid coach the previous two seasons before joining the Lakers’ staff for 2011-12, told NBA.com:
“I think he can be very good. He has the size, he has the mobility, he can put the ball on the floor for a big man, and he has range. He definitely has the NBA range and a quick release. I think he can really be effective in this league once he gets physically stronger, more powerful.”
Who does Mirotic compare to in the NBA?
“David Lee, maybe,” said Messina, a coaching legend in Europe who left the Lakers after the season to be a head coach again with CSKA Moscow. “Can we call him a young Kevin Love just to get the fans excited? Yes, we can call him a young Kevin Love. Obviously he has a long way to go to become like Kevin, which an All-Star, but that kind of player while being very effective on the perimeter has the ability to put the ball on the floor and is tough enough to get the job done close to the basket…. Nikola will be able to play inside, outside, flash, pop, roll. Mix his game.”
Mirotic, 21, needs to add muscle on his 6-foot-10, 210-pound frame to play power forward, but two years is a lot of time to bulk up. It’s a lot of time for a lot of things at his new level of prominence in Europe and at least one city in North America.