Bulls’ Nikola Mirotic is just the latest high-profile European big man to make the NBA jump

It is clear that international players, specifically those from Europe, are all the rage in the NBA right now. This past season’s champions, San Antonio Spurs, had eight international players on its roster during the Finals, with three (Boris Diaw, Tony Parker, and Marco Belinelli) coming from Europe.

Sure, most of those guys are established players in the league, but the resounding success of the Spurs model — and its emphasis on foreign talent — has gotten the rest of the league to finally notice. An immediate effect of that can be seen in the amount of young European players coming over to the U.S. this year after storied careers in the Euroleague.

The Chicago Bulls are one of the teams buying into the importance of European talent — along with the Nets (Bojan Bogdanovic) and others — which they have shown by signing former first-round pick Nikola Mirotic, a Montenegro national, to a three-year, $16.6 million deal.

Mirotic, who is a 6-foot-10 forward, was bought out of his contract with Spain’s Real Madrid this summer and decided to join the NBA. Similarly to Brooklyn’s Bogdanovic (and Mirza Teletovic, who signed with the Nets back in 2012), Mirotic is a big guy who can shoot extremely well but can also be an all-around good scorer.

That is why, so far in training camp, he has already garnered a lot of praise from one notable Bulls teammate.

From a Chicago Sun-Times article written by Joe Cowley: “He’s [Mirotic] pretty good…he’s really good,” [Joakim] Noah said of the 6-10 stretch forward. “And he adds a different dimension to the game. He’s a lot more than just a shooter…You don’t think of stretch-fours as guys who can block shots, run the floor, and he can. He’s a hell of a player.”

That sort of effusive compliment is not usually spouted by Noah, who can be known as a gruff player on the court. It also certainly is not characteristic of Chicago’s coach, Tom Thibodeau, whose entire coaching philosophy has no room for any sugarcoating or nonsense at all. Still, this early in training camp, Mirotic’s potential is being recognized.

 From the same piece: “He had a really good first day,” Thibodeau said. “And then after watching film, it was even better than I thought.”

Some pretty strong words from important members of the Bulls roster and organization about an unproven rookie.

Who knows how much Mirotic — a two-time All-Euroleague second team pick with Real Madrid and one-time Spanish League MVP — will play for the Bulls early this season. But if they need a scoring burst — and that team is prone to droughts — you can be sure that Thibs will strongly consider his tall Montenegrin rookie.

About Josh Burton

I'm a New York native who has been a Nets season ticket holder, in both New Jersey and now Brooklyn, since birth. Northwestern University (Medill School of Journalism) '18