On Tuesday, the Chicago Bulls re-signed forward Nikola Mirotic to a two-year deal. The first year will pay him a guaranteed $12.5 million and the second year is a team option with both years worth up to as much as $27 million combined, according ESPN’s Nick Friedell.
Mirotic averaged 10.6 points and 5.5 rebounds in 24.0 minutes per contest over 70 games (15 starts) for Chicago last season, but showed signs of regression, went through shooting slumps and was even benched by coach Fred Hoiberg at one point.
With a new season ahead of him and with the rebuilding process firmly beginning after Dwyane Wade was bought out and Jimmy Butler was traded this summer, the 6’10” Yugoslavian made a gigantic change in the offseason that he hopes will allow him to transform his game.
"I finished [last season] 237, and 260 now," Mirotic told reporters regarding his weight. "I'm feeling good. I've never felt that strong in my legs, feeling better with the rebounding, and I worked all summer in the low post, especially when I play that pick-and-roll and they switch me, so I need to be available to play in the low post against small guys.”
Apparently he attributed his inconsistency to his lack of muscle in previous seasons.
"I knew I had to put some weight on and get stronger to be consistent. Even if you don't make some shots, you can rebound and be better on defense,” Mirotic said, via K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune.
He also wants to make sure that he can catch up with his teammates since the team will adopt a new style of offense, saying “… we’re going to play fast. There's no more like holding the ball, playing isolation. Now it's more free, like when we used to play with Rajon (Rondo) on that second unit.”
Overall, the 26-year-old forward is excited about the upcoming season and staying put in Chicago.
"I said at the end of the season my goal is to be here, to do what I didn't do maybe those first three years. Be consistent. I played some parts of the season well, some parts not so well. ... I'm still the same Niko. I'm just expecting better Niko, more consistent."
Losing out on a lot of scoring production from last season’s team, the Bulls will likely look to Mirotic to deliver a breakout season in 2017-2018. Judging by his preparation this summer, he might very well live up to that expectation.