Eastern Notes: Mirotic, Deng, Knicks, Pistons

Unsurprisingly, Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau thinks Nikola Mirotic deserves to win Rookie of the Year over Andrew Wiggins and Nerlens Noel, as Mike McGraw of the Daily Herald reveals. Mirotic is second among rookies in points per game since the All-Star break behind only Wiggins, and his contributions on a contending team could ultimately help his case for the award. While we continue to see how the race for top Rookie honors shapes up, we’ll round up more from out east..

  • Luol Deng has seen heavy time on the court throughout his career, twice leading the NBA in minutes played per night, and the 30 year old admits all the burn has definitely had an effect on him, as Jessica Camerato of Basketball Insiders details. “I feel 45,” Deng said. “I feel oldYou’ve got to be smart and realize how your body feels.”  The 11th-year veteran has sought advice about playing into his 30’s from Steve Nash and Richard Hamilton, according to Camerato.
  • Fred Kerber of the New York Post opines that if the Knicks can find a way to finish with even just a .500 record next season, it would mark one of the greatest one-year turnarounds in NBA history. Landing Karl-Anthony Towns or Jahlil Okafor in the draft this June would certainly help New York’s chances, Kerber believes.
  • Andre Drummond‘s offensive game is expanding, and that could help the Pistons offset the likely loss of unrestricted free agent Greg Monroe, David Mayo of MLive.com writes. Drummond has mostly relied on lob dunks and putbacks for his offensive contributions during his three-year career but has shown improved postup moves in recent games, including five made hook shots against the Heat on Sunday, Mayo adds. That is a welcome development, Mayo opines, considering that Monroe — the team’s main post threat — signed a qualifying offer last summer as a restricted free agent so that he could become unrestricted this summer.

Dana Gauruder contributed to this post.

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