Gibson: Bulls Should Make Mirotic Untouchable, Euroleague Heats Up

Former Oregon Duck Maarty Leunen is the rock for a Cantu side that now famously spreads the love on offense and expects equal parts from all its contributors, though they clearly miss Italian scoring machine Pietro Aradori, who came over (curiously) from Montepaschi Siena in the offseason, and former Lousivile guard Jerry Smith, who was starting at the point before a broken foot in November’s first week put him in street clothes.

While Cantu will ride a wave of momentum and surprise into their duel with Fenerbahce Ulker, the Turkish side has to be kicking themselves at the mere thought that it has come to this. They came into the season as Final Four hopefuls, and now, thanks to their own lethargy and the complete absence of cohesion, they might be one of the first eight teams eliminated.

My preseason pick for MVP, Bo McCalebb, has been in and out of the lineup with an ankle injury and his production has suffered severely.  While no blame lies with Bo for the injury itself, he is culpable to a degree, as it is his fourth season of Euroleague basketball and he still relies too heavily on speed, struggling to orchestrate an offense when he’s playing at less than 100 percent.

Given the diverse array of pieces around him – Romain Sato, David Andersen, Mike Batiste, Bojan Bogdanovic, Emir Preldzic – Fenerbahce’s possessions shouldn’t induce a 24-second, face-melting cringe every other trip.

Oh, and rebounding.  Fenerbhace has grabbed fewer than anyone.  So when they played the EL’s best rebounding team, Panathinaikos, guess what happened?  The Turks got destroyed 69-55 in a nearly unwatchable mud trudge.

Fenerbahce Ulker host Cantu this Thursday.  If Fenerbahce wins, they can forget all about these first 10 weeks.

Lord knows I’ll try my hardest to do the same.

The most entertaining game of the week needed overtime in Belgrade, as 2-6 Partizan nearly toppled 8-0 Barcelona but lost in the end, 68-67.

With Partizan down one and the clock under five seconds, 20-year-old French point guard Leo Westermann – who has plenty of Jose Calderon in him – got into the lane against the Euroleague’s best defense and floated the ball toward his rolling center, 21-year-old Dejan Musli.

It was a play that had worked most of the night, whether it was Musli or fellow 21-year-old Djordje Gagic on the receiving end.

But as Xavi Pascual’s defenses always do, Nathan Jawai adjusted this time and stayed home, directly underneath the rim.  When Musli caught it, he found the 280-pound Aussie between himself and the game-winning basket.

Musli put it up too soft, and Jawai responded with the defensive play of the season, swatting it into the corner to give Barcelona their ninth win in as many games.

It was a heartbreaking loss for Partizan, the Euroleague’s youngest team, who will now head into one of Europe’s crazier atmospheres to play Brose Baskets Bamberg in Bamberg, Germany.

Partizan (2-7) will have to beat Bamberg (2-7) and hope Lietuvos Rytas (2-7) loses in Istanbul against Besiktas (4-5), who have already qualified for the Top 16.

If Bamberg beat Partizan, they’re in. Plain and simple.

If Rytas beat Besiktas, they need a Partizan win in Bamberg to advance, as the Lithuanians have the head-to-head advantage over Partizan.

Got all that?

Nick Gibson, editor of, covers Euroleague and other international basketball developments for You can follow him on Twitter.


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  5. Phil Jackson says

    “Three team deal that has been batted around”, by who??? This is a fimant of someones imagination…

  6. MM says

    So Mirotic recorded 19pts 8rebs in 22 minutes. You keep ragging on a player who’s only 21 and has a lot of room to grow. I believe he’s better than those Euro Vets you mentioned, but that’s just my two cents.

  7. AP says

    The biggest international basketball site in the world – did their annual poll of the 300 leading sports journalists in Europe that cover basketball.

    They voted on the best players in Europe……….. All-Europe Awards 2012 All-Europe 1st Team

    Player of the Year: Vassilis Spanoulis (193-G-82) of Olympiacos S.F.P. Piraeus (Greece)

    Point Guard of the Year: Vassilis Spanoulis (193-G-82) of Olympiacos S.F.P. Piraeus (Greece)

    Shooting Guard of the Year: Dimitris Diamantidis (196-G-80) of Panathinaikos Athens (Greece)

    Small Forward of the Year: Andrei Kirilenko (209-F-81) of CSKA Moscow (Russia) / Minnesota Timberwolves (NBA)

    Power Forward of the Year: Erazem Lorbek (210-F/C-84) of Regal FC Barcelona (Spain)

    Center of the Year: Nenad Krstic (213-C-83) of CSKA Moscow (Russia)

    Coach of the Year: Dusan Ivkovic of Olympiacos S.F.P. Piraeus (Greece) All-Europe 2nd Team

    Bo McCalebb (183-PG-85) of Montepaschi Siena (Italy) / Fenerbahce Ulker Istanbul (Turkey)

    Juan Carlos Navarro (192-G-80) of Regal FC Barcelona (Spain)

    Rudy Fernandez (198-SF-85) of Real Madrid (Spain)

    Mike Batiste (203-F-77) of Panathinaikos Athens (Greece) / Fenerbahce Ulker Istanbul (Turkey)

    Jonas Valanciunas (211-C-92) of Lietuvos Rytas Vilnius (Lithuania) / Toronto Raptors (NBA) All-Europe Honorable Mention

    David Hawkins (195-G/F-82) of Besiktas Milangaz Istanbul (Turkey) / Galatasaray Medical Park Istanbul (Turkey)

    Milos Teodosic (195-PG-87) of CSKA Moscow (Russia)

    Henry Domercant (194-SG-80) of Unics Kazan (Russia) / Galatasaray Medical Park Istanbul (Turkey)

    Alexey Shved (198-SG-88) of CSKA Moscow (Russia) / Minnesota Timberwolves (NBA)

    Sonny Weems (198-G/F-86) of Zalgiris Kaunas (Lithuania) / CSKA Moscow (Russia)

    Kostas Papanikolaou (206-F-90) of Olympiacos S.F.P. Piraeus (Greece)

    Viktor Khryapa (206-F-82) of CSKA Moscow (Russia)

    David Andersen (212-C-80) of Montepaschi Siena (Italy) / Fenerbahce Ulker Istanbul (Turkey)

    Georgios Printezis (206-F-85) of Olympiacos S.F.P. Piraeus (Greece)

    Zoran Planinic (201-G-82) of BC Khimky Moscow Region (Russia)

    Nikola Mirotic did not even make the top 20 list. Seriously, this guy is entering into the range of overrating and over hyping by NBA related media that Ricky Rubio was at.

    Mirotic is NOT one of the best players in Europe. The poll of the 300 leading basketball journalists in Europe proves that.

  8. AP says

    Yeah, clearly Mirotic is much better than someone like Navarro…………seriously hahahah. That game pretty much sums up why Mirotic is being extremely overrated here. He’s not in any way, shape, or form a difference maker, or lead player.

    But this article is making it look like he’s a one of a kind player in Europe. Simply no. Way too much hype on a guy that basically is just a cross between Ersan Ilyasova and Antonis Fotsis.

  9. MM says

    Hey Nick,

    What do you think Mirotic’s ceiling is? He has been compared to players like Schrempf, Kukoc, Gallanari, Ilyasova, Anderson, and even Nowitzki. Do you also believe he can become a legitimate second option next to Rose? I trust your insight by the way, since you’ve been following Mirotic for a while. Yourself and Jonathan Givony really know a lot about Euro players.

    • AP says

      Givony knows almost nothing about European players. His scouting reports on European players are almost comical they are so bad. I doubt if he’s even see 90% of the players play that he is writing reports on.

      You can’t go by a single ting he says at all.

      Nick actually watches these guys play, so he is a much better and much more legit source on European players than Givony. But nonetheless, IMO Nick is overrating Mirotic to an extreme.

  10. says

    You can pretty much forget about trading Mirotic before he has signed an NBA contract, he made it very clear before the draft that he was only interested in playing for the Bulls or Lakers. I can’t see why any team would trade for his rights when there’s a very good chance he wouldn’t come over and play for that team.

  11. AP says

    This site is just over hyping Mirotic and overrating him to a ridiculous degree. The same thing as with Rubio all over again. It’s really getting old.

    It’s amazing when you had players like Navarro, Diamantidis, Papaloukas, Spanoulis, Siskuaskas in Europe and you never once heard a thing about them from US sports media. But endless nonsense hype about much lesser players like Mirotic and Rubio………..

    • says

      Funny, you say Rubio was “overhyped”, yet he came to the NBA and was 6th in the league in assists per game and 2nd in steals per game as a 21-year-old rookie… JC Navarro? Really? Played one year in the NBA at 27 and only managed 11 pts/game on 40% shooting… Spanoulis?? Played one season at 24, and barely got off the bench. Those other guys never played in the league, why would the US sports media even mention them? Of course, it could also be that none of the guys you listed are as good as Rubio or Mirotic?

      • AP says

        Typical NBA only fan. Not even having the slightest clue that many players in Europe are better, even much better than Rubio. It’s absurd how NBA only fans talk about the Euroleague.

        Navarro and Spanoulis are vastly superior players to Rubio. He won’t ever be half as good as they are.

        • says

          Typical European fan, can’t even read and comprehend plain English.

          “Those other guys never played in the league, why would the US sports media even mention them?”

          Again, for the most part, the US media and the average NBA fan don’t care about a bunch of guys who will never play in the NBA.

          YOUR opinion on who is better means even less to NBA fans and the American media.

        • myrecks says

          Yea.. That’s why rubio is the starting pg on the spanish national team and not navarro. Rubios never gonna be as good as navarro? -_- ridiculous

    • says

      Hey AP. Maybe you’re looking for something like this on Spanoulis:

      Or Navarro:

      Here’s one that leads with Siskauskas, and follows with Spanoulis:

      And Diamantidis is another staple in these EL Updates. Most recently about a week ago:

      While I’m not claiming to represent the ‘US Sports Media’—that’s weighty and I doubt they’d have me—I am saying that there’s some pretty good stuff out there about European hoops if you look in the right places. I believe that this is one of those right places. Mirotic has gotten more ink than many others, but keep in mind that this site is read by NBA fans mainly, and there’s intrigue with Nikola right now, what with trade speculation and all.

      But I believe you’d be hard pressed to find another site run by the ‘US Sports Media’ whose editor gives this many pixels to European hoops on a weekly basis. For me, the fact that we’ve even gotten this discussion going (thank you to everyone who’s commented) and kept it going is a positive. We’re having a conversation about European basketball, and that can’t be a bad thing.

      Also, my site Euroleague Adventures, is linked in my author bio at the bottom of the article should you care to give it a try. Whether it’s here or there, I’ll always try to respond thoughtfully whenever you take the time to leave a comment. Thanks for reading, AP.

  12. Isaac says

    It all comes down to what the ceiling is for Mirotic. The Bulls’ starting center spot for the next few years is Noah’s. There’s no contest there.
    Is Mirotic expected to be better than Boozer/Taj right off the bat? Or will he play a Kukoc-like role coming off the bench at SF/PF? It’s interesting, and definitely something to watch.

    • says

      Ideally, Mirotic would function as a perfect fit alongside Noah at the PF as a guy who can stretch the floor, but doesn’t necessarily need to in order to be effective—he’s adding moves seemingly every couple of weeks.

      But he needs to fill out a little bit, as is the case with most 21-year-olds.

      If he comes over in two, three seasons, then I believe he can step in immediately and be effective as a starter, with a more defensive-minded PF coming off the bench behind him. If Gibson is still around, all the merrier, but I have faith that Thibodeau will have one of those in his back pocket at all times, whether it’s Taj or someone else.

      Thanks for the comment, Isaac. But know this: while Mirotic is not a bad passer, he’ll never be Kukoc. The scoring? Give me Mirotic.

  13. Arky says

    Mirotic may be a nice prospect, but hardly untouchable and the fact that he’s probably not even going to play in the NBA for a couple more years further drives down his value to a team like the Bulls trying to win now (or at least very soon).

    The reason the Bulls would be crazy to do Mirotic, Gibson and a first for Gasol (besides the fact that it does not work from a salary cap point of view in any way shape or form) is:

    1. The Bulls have two quality starting bigs already. Both Boozer and Gasol make too much money to come off the bench. It’s an inefficient use of the salary cap.

    2. I’m not convinced that Gasol would be significantly better for them than Gibson, at this point.

    3. Did I mention that it doesn’t work from a salary cap point of view and the Bulls would have to give up more in salary to let it happen? That will just make the deal even worse for them.

    TO me this sounds like just another silly rumour made up by Laker fans so they can dream of moving Gasol. The fact is that his enormous contract is going to make a move well-nigh impossible.

  14. AP says

    I am sorry, but Nikola Mirotic is miles from being an untouchable player, and if they could get Pau for him, they would be absolutely stupid not to do so. Mirotic isn’t half as good as you are making him out to be here.

    This is exaggeration about the level of player he is. And that NBA GM is wrong. You are telling me Mirotic is more talented than other young guys in Europe in his same general age like Jaka Blazic, Kostas Papanikolaou, Nikos Pappas, Ilkan Karaman, Vangelis Mantzaris…just to name the ones that first pop in my head, but there are others.

    Come on. Sorry, but this is just nonsense. I can say with complete confidence that Mirotic isn’t even remotely as good as you are making him out to be.

    • says

      Thanks for reading, and even more for the comment. I think you’d be very hard pressed to find anyone who thinks Jaka Blazic, Nikos Pappas, Ilkan Karaman or Evangelos Mantzaris—while all solid and improving players in their own distinct ways—is anywhere close to Mirotic in talent, potential, or production to-date. Kostas Papanikolaou is the only one on that list that stands a chance to produce for an NBA team at anywhere near the rate that Mirotic would.

      And my opinion here is not based mostly upon anyone else’s scouting or opinion of Mirotic but my own; this is an NBA site, and my NBA source’s opinion is meant to back up my own theory that Mirotic is as good as it gets abroad. I have been watching Mirotic for three seasons now in both the EL and the ACB, watched him play multiple times in person, talked to his teammates, opposing players, scouts and coaches that all feel the same way: Nikola Mirotic is an elite prospect.

      There is zero deviation in that regard. Same story, no matter who tells it.

      Even Ricky Rubio was polarizing in Europe, as plenty of decision makers and players alike had opinions which varied on his NBA potential (some of the polarization was created by the unrelenting hype, of which there is little—thankfully—for Mirotic). He had very glaring holes in his game, especially as it fit in—or rather, didn’t fit in—in Europe.

      Besides saying this is nonsense, what is wrong with Mirotic’s performance? His game? What are his weaknesses, his holes, his deficiencies? And why would the Bulls want Gasol, for the very same reasons stated in Arky’s comment above?

      (And I agree with you, Arky, except for your assertion that Mirotic should be used as trade bait if a win-now player comes along.)

      I look at a 21-year-old that has dominated at every level of competition and has now been given the keys to Europe’s most championship-laden club—a club that has enough money to pay anyone they’d like to do the same.

      Yet they chose Mirotic, and they’ve not a single reason to regret it yet.

      Thanks again for the comment, both of you.

      • Davan Sand says

        BTW, the Bulls sent picks 28 and thier second rounder, number 43 to the TWolves for the rights to Mirotic. They used pick 30 on Jimmy Butler. Nice draft for the Bulls

        • says

          Thanks, Davan. I made that change. Appreciate you reading that far into the piece. And yes—it was a nice draft for the Bulls. With a chance to get much nicer down the road.


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