Jul 4, 2014, 9:00 AM EDT
Nikola Mirotic is one of the world’s top players not in the NBA.
The Bulls traded up in the 2011 draft to get him at No. 23, and he’s played for Real Madrid since.
Now, the 23-year-old, who has another year remaining on his contract with the Spanish team, is reportedly ready to join the NBA.
Because the Bulls drafted Mirotic more than three years ago, they can use room rather than the rookie scale to sign him. Likely, it took a larger-than-scale offer to lure the promising forward – perhaps as much as the mid-level exception.
The Bulls can contribute just $600,000 to Mirotic’s buyout without adding to team salary. Anything else, structured as a signing bonus in his contract, would add to team salary and come out of Mirotic’s paycheck. Of course, they could potentially offer him a larger contract than they would otherwise in order to pay more of his buyout.
The bigger question is how the Bulls make room for Mirotic’s salary.
They currently have only the mid-level exception available, but they also might amnesty Carlos Boozer to clear cap room. Of course, some of that cap room had presumably been reserved for Carmelo Anthony.
This indicates a few possibilities:
1. The Bulls don’t believe they can sign Melo. Even if they have doubts, Melo planning to take the weekend to decide could lead to a quick resolution. I doubt Chicago would panic-sign Mirotic with money designated for Melo rather than waiting out Melo.
2. The Bulls believe they can sign-and-trade for Melo, which would leave the mid-level exception available for Mirotic. That comes with difficulties, namely Phil Jackson’s reported refusal to accept Boozer in a deal, but Jackson should be just posturing.
3. The Bulls have a plan – trading multiple rotation pieces, convincing Melo to take less money, convincing Mirotic to take less money or some combination thereof – to clear enough cap room to sign both Melo and Mirotic outright.
I trust Chicago knows what its doing with those two, and Melo obviously should take priority.But Mirotic has a place in all this, too. If Boozer isn’t long for Chicago and Taj Gibson replaces him in the starting lineup, Mirotic would slide nicely into the rotation.
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