Chicago Bulls anlaysis: Implications of Nikola Mirotic injury

Jan 7, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bulls guard Jimmy Butler (21) talks to his teammates during a time out during the second half of an NBA game against the Boston Celtics at United Center. The Bulls won 101-92. Mandatory Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 7, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bulls guard Jimmy Butler (21) talks to his teammates during a time out during the second half of an NBA game against the Boston Celtics at United Center. The Bulls won 101-92. Mandatory Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports /

A recent injury to Chicago Bulls big man Nikola Mirotic hinders his development.

Chicago Bulls big man Nikola Mirotic underwent an emergency appendectomy after doctors diagnosed him with acute appendicitis the team announced on Wednesday. This is bad news for a player that continues to be a work in progress.

Mirotic will not travel with the team for its seven-game road trip which began on Thursday and will continue through Feb. 8. The injury will sideline him through the Feb. 12-14 All-Star Weekend.

The 24-year-old Montenegro product hasn’t been able to build on a rookie season where he earned a spot on the NBA All-Rookie First Team. Under new head coach Fred Hoiberg this season, Mirotic has seen similar levels of production despite playing four minutes per game more than during his rookie season.

Inconsistency has been the story of his season: he shot under 36 percent from the field during the months of November and December but has settled down recently and has shot 40 percent from the field in January. Mirotic acknowledged that he needs to become more consistent to improve.

"I have to find a way that I can play maybe 10 games good [in a row]. I try to do something every day good. Sometimes I have really good feelings before the game. What I should do when I warm up. But after the game [starts], it’s different. I know the first minutes of the game are really important for me. But sometimes when I’m missing those shots, I’m changing my game.That can’t happen. I have to stay focused, you know. —-Quote obtained by writer Steve Aschburner"

The Chicago Bulls obtained the rights to Mirotic in a draft-night trade in 2011. He continued to play professional basketball in Europe until July 2014 when the Chicago Bulls bought-out his contract with Real Madrid for $3 million and signed him to a three-year, $16,631,175 contract.

He earned multiple accolades and designations during his time in Europe. He was the Euroleague Rising Star in 2011 and 2012, he made the Euroleague Second Team in 2013 and 2014 and was the Spanish League Most Valuable Player in 2013.

The immensely talented Mirotic has had a difficult time transitioning his success in Europe over to the United States in his first two seasons in the NBA. The appendectomy is a major setback in smoothing out this transition. Mirotic’s injury will cause serious problems for his development.

The best way for Mirotic to improve is playing time; it is the only way that he can continue to learn the NBA-style game and adjust his play accordingly. This recent injury deems him inactive for a substantial amount of time which is a problem.

Mirotic has had trouble finding his niche in the offense this season. His current absence is problematic because first-year Bulls head coach Fred Hoiberg has instituted a completely new offensive system; something that requires a learning curve to understand.

Chicago Bulls forward Nikola Mirotic
Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports /

His shot selection and lack of aggressiveness are particularly concerning.

According to, 26 percent of his shot attempts have come from 25-29 feet from the basket (NBA 3-point line is 23 feet 9 inches). He also has settled for shots; he has averaged 1.1 drives per game and 1.4 touches in the paint per game.

Mirotic needs playing time to improve upon both of these areas. In pick-and-roll situations, he needs to roll to the basket and make himself available. When he spots up for three, he needs to have an innate sense of where the 3-point line is, so he doesn’t continue to shoot long, inefficient shots.

Mirotic’s defense will only improve through playing time as well.

His defense has been suspect throughout his NBA career. Hoiberg, by switching him between multiple positions, has put him in an awkward position defensively. He isn’t fast enough to stay in front of wing players when he plays the small forward position. However, the 6-foot-10, 220 pound player doesn’t have enough strength or size to effectively guard larger players in the post.

When opponents post him up, a teammate usually has to bring a double team which breaks down the Bulls defense.

The Bulls would like to see improvements from him in all facets of his defensive responsibilities; however, his recent surgery has compromised this goal at least temporarily.

Perhaps a bigger problem than his physical shortcomings, are his recurring mental miscues defensively. In particular, he hasn’t boxed out opponents on a consistent basis which contributes to the Bulls overall poor rebounding (the team has surrendered a league worst 12.7 opponent offensive rebounds per game, according to ESPN).

(vine created by BlogABull writer The Hungarian Jordan)

The best way for Mirotic to learn to box out on a consistent basis is through repetition. Any improvement involving his ability to guard faster or bigger players also stems partly from repetition of the technique necessary to become a more efficient defender.

More from Da Windy City

The Chicago Bulls invested a lot of time and money into Nikola Mirotic who they hoped would become the next great European star in the NBA.

Not only has Mirotic seen a drop in his production in his second NBA season, but the recent appendectomy temporarily compromises his ability to improve.

The Bulls took a calculated risk when they traded for him on draft night in 2011. So far, they haven’t reaped consistent benefits from that risk.

Next: Jimmy Butler Selected To The NBA All Star Game

Nikola Mirotic isn’t going to find his offensive niche or have his defense magically improve by sitting on a bench for two and a half weeks. His recent appendectomy seriously hinders his development.