Chicago Bulls: Regression Of Nikola Mirotic Continues

Chicago Bulls forward Nikola Mirotic could be playing his last season in the Windy City.

NBA life for Chicago Bulls third-year forward Nikola Mirotic has been a roller coaster to say the least.

During his 2014-15 rookie campaign, Mirotic led the league in fourth-quarter scoring during the month of March and finished with averages of 10.2 points and 4.9 rebounds per contest while playing in all 82 games.

In Year 2, despite being removed from the starting lineup on multiple occasions, Mirotic’s numbers were slightly better than the previous year. His averages included 11.8 points and 5.5 rebounds per outing on shooting splits of .407/.390/.807.

Despite his modest success last season, though, Mirotic knew that 2016-17 would be a make-or-break year for him. To say that things have not gone according to plan would be a mild understatement of sorts.

For starters, Mirotic was thoroughly outplayed by former teammate Taj Gibson during the preseason and was relegated to the bench. Additionally, Mirotic continued to struggle with playing at a high level on a consistent basis.

In fact, prior to the All-Star break, there were just two instances in which Mirotic posted a double-digit scoring average for a month. This includes October — a sample of only three games and the month of February.

Due to the fact that Mirotic is posting career lows in points (9.1) overall shooting (39 percent) and three-point shooting (30 percent), the Bulls were reportedly interested in shopping both him and Rajon Rondo prior to the trade deadline in hopes of making a push towards the playoffs during the second half of the season.

Instead, the Bulls traded Gibson, Doug McDermott and a future second-round pick to the Oklahoma City Thunder in exchange for Cameron Payne, Joffrey Lauvergne and Anthony Morrow.

This move was supposed to give Mirotic a new lease on life as the saying goes and, initially, that was certainly the case.

In Chicago’s 128-121 win over the Phoenix Suns on Feb. 24, Mirotic scored 20 points and pulled down eight rebounds. Along with that, he shot 5-for-10 from the floor, including a 4-for-7 effort from beyond the arc.

Just 24 hours later, Mirotic had a solid outing against a Cleveland Cavaliers team that was playing without LeBron James. In that contest, Mirotic posted a double-double of 14 points and 10 rebounds, helping the Bulls to coast to an easy 117-99 victory.

Since those outings though, the walls have come crashing down sort to speak. Over his next four outings, Mirotic scored a combined total of just 25 points.

And if that news wasn’t bad enough, Fred Hoiberg has removed Mirotic from the rotation altogether during the last three games — a stretch in which the Bulls have lost by an average margin of 16 points per contest.

As was the case with Rondo earlier this season, Mirotic expressed that he did not receive a clear explanation for his recent benching or how he can improve his chances of getting back into the rotation.

“That’s what I asked him,” Mirotic said, via ESPN. “I asked him what I can do to be back? What can I do to be in the rotation? What I should do differently? And it looks like he wanted to give an opportunity, a chance to a young guy who is on the team, [Joffrey] Lauvergne. And I just need to be ready. He said maybe there will come a time when you have another chance. That’s what I can do, work on myself, and wait.”

Whether or not Hoiberg re-inserts him into the lineup at some point remains to be seen.

But being that the Bulls have used 12- and 13-man rotations during their last two outings while Mirotic watched from the bench, the chances of that happening are between slim and none.

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