9:33pm: Sources have told K.C. Johnson of The Chicago Tribune that Mirotic is hoping for assurances from the Bulls that he won’t be traded before completing his buyout.
11:08am: Mirotic and the Bulls don’t believe they have far to go to complete a deal, but no agreement is imminent, tweets Shams Charania of RealGM.com.
8:47am: The Bulls are indeed working to sign Mirotic, according to Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com, who notes that it doesn’t mean Chicago is abandoning its pursuit of Anthony.
8:00am: Nikola Mirotic has decided to leave his Spanish league team and sign an NBA contract this summer, reports Jorge Sierra of HoopsHype (Twitter link). It’s not clear just what sort of contract he’ll end up with from the Bulls, who hold his rights, but it appears the 6’10” forward widely considered the best overseas player is finally bound for the NBA.
Mirotic’s contract with Real Madrid involves an NBA buyout that costs the equivalent of more than $3MM. That’s well above the Excluded International Player Payment Amount of $600K, the most NBA teams can pay without the money counting against team salary. That means the majority of the buyout will come out of Mirotic’s NBA paychecks and count in Chicago’s books.
That’s part of the reason why Mirotic has stayed out of the NBA since becoming the 23rd overall pick in the 2011 draft. Since three years have passed, he’s no longer subject to the NBA’s rookie scale, which wouldn’t afford him a salary nearly high enough for him simply to break even this year. Ken Berger of CBSSports.com heard in March that Mirotic would seek salaries worth $3-4MM from the Bulls, but Nick Friedell of ESPNChicago.com wrote in January that the Bulls would be quite pleased if Mirotic were to settle for the $5.305MM mid-level exception.
Another report from March indicated that Mirotic and Carmelo Anthony was an either-or proposition for the Bulls, pointing to the tight financial squeeze required if the team were to be able to sign ‘Melo. Indeed, the Bulls would have to clear cap room to sign ‘Melo unless the Knicks agreed to a sign-and-trade, which they appear reluctant to do. Opening cap space would cause the $5.305MM non-taxpayer’s mid-level exception to vanish and be replaced by the $2.732MM room exception, which wouldn’t cover the cost of Mirotic’s buyout. Still, the report frames the decision as coming from Mirotic, and not the Bulls, so it’s not necessarily an indication that the Bulls are counting themselves out of the race for ‘Melo. Chicago could trade the rights to Mirotic as it seeks a deal for Anthony.
The 23-year-old Mirotic scored 12.1 points and grabbed 4.9 rebounds in 23.4 minutes per game for Real Madrid this past season, but perhaps most intriguing, he shot 40.9% from behind the three-point line. Assuming he ends up with Chicago, he figures to be a key floor-spacing weapon for a Bulls team that had serious trouble scoring in 2013/14.