Players to watch in Mavs free agency: Nikola Mirotic

Now that the Dallas Mavericks have their point guard of the future, the team can focus their attention on their other needs. For a team that missed the playoffs last year, those needs are many. General Manager Donnie Nelson has already declared that the team will not pursue a point guard, and their starting five looks set. That leaves the Mavs in need of backups for every other position.

After a night of dealing Jimmy Butler to the Minnesota Timberwolves and selecting PF Lauri Markkanen, the Chicago Bulls find themselves with a surprisingly different roster than what they ended the season with. Previously led by Rajon Rondo, Dwyane Wade and Butler, the Bulls could possibly say goodbye to all three in the same offseason.

Another surprise is that, at three seasons, the longest-tenured Bull is Nikola Mirotic, the team’s first-round pickup from the 2011 draft who finally came to the NBA in 2014. The stretch-four becomes a restricted free agent on July 1. The Bulls have waited years for Mirotic to develop. Could the Mavs swoop in and poach him just as he finally does?

The 26-year-old Mirotic is seemingly redundant now that the Bulls have a young stretch-four in Markkanen. However, Bulls Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations John Paxson stated that they intend to bring Mirotic back despite having him on the trading block for a significant part of last season. He averaged 10.6 points and 5.5 rebounds on 41 percent shooting in 24 minutes a game. The expectation is for those numbers to go up as he continues improving his game, and as the Bulls shift to a style more in line with his skillset.

As for his fit with the Mavericks, it is easy to imagine him playing behind Dirk and being asked to hit open jumpers and rebound. He’s a promising 35 percent from three-point range for his career, and would create the space required for Coach Rick Carlisle’s offense to flow. The pressure on him would be relatively low, too, since Harrison Barnes frequently plays the backup power forward. It would be a surprise if Mirotic increases his minutes after a move to Dallas.

Mirotic’s qualifying offer is a little more than $7 million. The general consensus is that Chicago will match offers of up to $10 million a year, and might balk at offers around $13 million. As with all restricted free agents, teams wanting to pry free agents loose will have to overpay to get their man. How much the Mavericks would be willing to offer a player like Mirotic remains to be seen.

Teams learned that the salary cap for next season won’t be as high as expected, so purse strings around the league have tightened. Could Mirotic be a target for the Mavericks? It could come down to how much the team ends up paying their own restricted free agent Nerlens Noel, but Mirotic’s hypothetical fit with Dallas makes him a player to watch as free agency nears.

© 2017 WFAA-TV


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