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NBA Free Agency 2017: Nikola Mirotic could be a terrific backup for Dirk

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The Mavericks need more depth at power forward. Could Mirotic be their guy?

NBA: Preseason-Dallas Mavericks at Chicago Bulls Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

Heading into the 2017-18 season, the Dallas Mavericks have adequate depth at every position, except at power forward. Besides Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas’ next best option at the four is Dwight Powell, who has mostly been underwhelming since signing his four-year, $37 million contract last summer (I’m still trying to find out who we were bidding against, but oh well).

If the Mavs are looking for suitable backup for Dirk who won’t break the bank, they should consider making an offer to the Chicago BullsNikola Mirotic, who is a restricted free agent this summer.

The Basics

Mirotic appeared in 70 games for the Bulls last season, averaging 10.6 points and 5.5 rebounds in 24 minutes per night. The 26-year-old power forward stands at 6’10” and weighs 220 pounds.

His overall field goal percentages haven’t been great in his three-year career (40.9 percent), but one could argue that he hasn’t been utilized correctly in Chicago. With Rick Carlisle pulling the strings, Mirotic could be a very useful role player for the Mavs next season.

Strengths

The ability to spread the floor is one of Mirotic’s biggest strengths. In today’s game having a stretch four has pretty much become a necessity, so a 6’10” power forward who is a 35-percent shooter from deep would be a great asset. His three-point shooting is not quite on Dirk’s level (career 38.1 percent from three), but Mirotic is much better than Powell in this area (career 25.7 percent from deep).

Last season, Mirotic ranked 16th in three-point shooting among power forwards, putting him ahead of players like Draymond Green, Paul Millsap and Marcus Morris. It’s always tough to project what a player could do with more minutes, but last season Mirotic averaged 16 points and 8.2 rebounds per 36 minutes. He also had a couple of games that suggested he may still have untapped potential:

Weaknesses

Inconsistency is Mirotic’s biggest weaknesses in my opinion. Although his overall field goal percentage has increased incrementally over the last three seasons, his two-point and three-point percentages have fluctuated:

Mirotic’s Career Shooting Percentages

Season FG% 2P% 3P%
Season FG% 2P% 3P%
2014-15 40.5% 49.5% 31.6%
2015-16 40.7% 43.0% 39.0%
2016-17 41.3% 52.0% 34.2%
Basketball-Reference.com

Now, if Carlisle and the Mavs could find a way to get Mirotic to shoot two-point shots like he did last season and three-point shots like he did in the 2015-16 season, then they’d really be on to something.

Fit with the Mavericks

Overall, Mirotic would be a perfect fit with Dallas. He would provide an excellent backup pick-and-pop partner for Yogi Ferrell, Seth Curry, Devin Harris and J.J. Barea.

I hate to keep bringing up Dwight Powell, but the Mavs’ second unit could really benefit from having a power forward who can not only shoot better, but rebound better as well.

A second unit lineup featuring Yogi, Seth, Dorian Finney-Smith and Mirotic could be really fun to watch. Who knows, maybe we’re all writing off Powell too early. Maybe he’ll come out this next season and justify his contract. But my guess is that he won’t, and the Mavs should move in a different direction.

Likelihood

Because Mirotic is a restricted free agent, Chicago has three days to match any offer sheet he signs with another team. But it’s uncertain whether they would since the Bulls seem to be entering rebuild mode. Not only did they trade away their best player, Jimmy Butler, to the Minnesota Timberwolves, but there has been speculation that they may buy out Dwyane Wade’s contract, making him a free agent.

As for their power forward situation, the Bulls used the Timberwolves’ No. 7 pick (acquired in exchange for Butler) to draft Lauri Markkanen, the 7-foot, sharp-shooting big man from the Arizona Wildcats. It might not make sense for Chicago to spend a lot of money to bring back the 26-year-old Mirotic when their newly acquired 20-year-old could start right off the bat and gain valuable experience during the rebuilding process.

Dallas could have a decent shot at landing Mirotic. The real question is whether they will consider him.