Chicago Bulls: Will Nikola Mirotic’s hot streak ruin the tanking?

(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /

There’s still a lot of season left for the Chicago Bulls, and Nikola Mirotic might not be part of it much longer. But has his hot streak already set the Bulls’ rebuild a bit behind?

Now, I don’t know how you all feel, but I’m not going to get carried away about the Chicago Bulls yet. In all likelihood, they’re still going to have a top-five pick in the 2018 NBA Draft.

After all, even after tonight’s win over the ascending (albeit Joel Embiid-less) Philadelphia 76ers, the Bulls sit at just 9-20. That’s still bad enough to for the fourth-worst team in basketball. Also, they’re nine games out of the wildcard and 13 games out of first place in the Central.

Basically, their winning streak needs to get way longer before they risk losing out on a top-10 pick. If that happened, we’d all be re-thinking everything we thought we knew about this team.

Nonetheless, a whole lot of fans freaking out right now about the Chicago Bulls’ six-game winning streak. Just when they fully started embracing the tank, they started winning again because…Bulls.

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Specifically, they have Nikola Mirotic, who is playing out of his mind since taking a Bobby Portis fist to the face, to thank (or not thank) for that.

Mirotic has helped spark this recent Bulls run by averaging 20.3 points and 7.3 rebounds a game, shooting 3-pointers at a 50% clip and posting a stupefying 27.0 PER, which would put him at seventh overall in the league if he had played enough minutes.

Sure, they wanted him to play well when he returned from his facial fractures for the trade value, but I don’t think they had this mind.

In fact, the Chicago Bulls will probably thank him for playing so well by trading him at the first possible opportunity (January 15th). At least that’s what they should do.

And I really feel like the Bulls will get a mid-to-late-first-round pick back if they package Mirotic with Robin Lopez and ship them off somewhere. As long as he stays on this hot streak, teams might forget that Mirotic is the king of hot streaks intermixed with badness and think he’s more useful than he is.

And even if they don’t, Lopez could sweeten the deal. Everyone can use a solid big off the bench.

But could Mirotic screw things up for the Bulls before they have the ability to offload him and his stellar play?

Sure, he’s not the only one playing well for the Bulls right now—Kris Dunn has been balling of late as has Portis, the guy who used Mirotic’s jaw as a heavy boxing bag.

And eventually, Zach LaVine and his hyper-athletic, smooth-shooting ways will return to the lineup. Heaven forbid he show up while Mirotic is still around; this team might actually be…kinda good.

All told, this is probably the best basketball he’s ever played. And you can see the way Dunn especially has fed off of Mirotic’s support, balling out in the clutch in a way most of us weren’t ready for.

Unfortunately, all of this is ironically coming at a time when the Bulls organization doesn’t care about winning. Go figure, right?

And though you do want to see strong development from guys like Dunn and Lauri Markkanen (which would equate to some wins every once in a while), it is (sad to say) better for the Bulls to be bad right now than it is to be good.

If the Chicago Bulls want a shot at Marvin Bagley or Luka Doncic in the draft, something needs to change. Either some other teams need to start winning, or they need to start losing again. Like, right now.

Next: Three trade options for Nikola Mirotic

Can the Bulls trade him in time both to keep their win totals down and maximize his value?

Or could Mirotic spark the Chicago Bulls into forgetting that they’re bad just enough to ruin their tanking plans?

Obviously, most of us fans envisioned this rebuild going a completely different way. That said, there’s still time for it to get back on track.