While they chase Carmelo Anthony and Pau Gasol, the Chicago Bulls may be close to landing what they believe is a major addition to their roster as they work to secure 2011 first-round draft pick Nikola Mirotic, sources told ESPN.com.
The Bulls traded for Mirotic's rights in 2011 when he was the No. 23 pick in the draft and have watched as he's developed into one of the best forwards in Europe. Known for his shooting touch, the 6-foot-10 Mirotic secured a buyout Thursday for $3 million with Real Madrid, according to several reports in Europe. He is now free to join the NBA.
Starting the process of bringing Mirotic, 23, over to play now will require the Bulls to make some roster moves. Because he was drafted three years ago, Mirotic is not subject to the rookie salary-cap scale, and the Bulls likely will need to use some of their cap space to contribute to his buyout and sign him to a long-term contract.
The Bulls can pay up to $600,000 toward Mirotic's buyout, but anything over that amount would be considered a signing bonus and be charged to the Bulls' cap. Such a move would not preclude the Bulls from acquiring Anthony as a free agent, but that route would almost certainly mean they would have to do it with a sign-and-trade using Carlos Boozer. That would require the New York Knicks' cooperation.
After meeting with five teams this week and getting a verbal five-year, $129 million max contract offer from the Knicks on Thursday, Anthony is expected to decide his future over the weekend, sources told ESPN.com.
The Bulls' plans to go forward in the process to bring over Mirotic make it clear they will be moving on without Boozer next season. He will be released via the amnesty provision to create cap room or traded.