Nikola Mirotic says he wants to stay in NBA beyond this season

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Heading into this season, Nikola Mirotic seemed primed to take a leap forward – the Bulls needed to space the floor better on offense, he could be the sharpshooting four the team was looking for.

Instead, while he’s getting 23 minutes a night, he is averaging fewer points (9.6 per game) than a season ago and is shooting just 32.1 percent from three. He’s had a couple of better games lately (15 points against the Lakers) but his season has been inconsistent. Certainly not the leap some envisioned.

Mirotic is a restricted free agent after this season, and it will be interesting to see what the market would offer him — and will the Bulls match. They have said he is part of the Chicago core going forward, but there will be a limit to how much they pay.

For his part, Mirotic said he wants to stay in the NBA — he could return to Real Madrid next season, make good (but slightly less) money and be a star — and he would prefer to stay in Chicago.

“I think (the NBA) is the best place I can grow as a player. I was very comfortable in Madrid. … That was a perfect place to stay and be in a comfort zone, to sign another five years. But that’s not who I am. I like the challenges. … And I came here to prove that I’m ready….

“I love the Bulls,” he said. “I love my teammates. I love the city. It’s the perfect place for me. The first idea is to re-sign.”

The Bulls have a lot of questions heading into next summer: Will Dwyane Wade stay or opt out? Only $3 million of Rajon Rondo‘s $13.4 million is guaranteed, but the Bulls have to decide by June 30, do they keep him? Do they re-sign Taj Gibson, or maybe trade him before the deadline? Both Mirotic and Michael Carter-Williams are restricted free agents, do they get retained?

The answers to those questions will have a lot to do with how the Bulls’ season ends — right now they are tied for the two seed in the East and if they can sustain that and make a deep playoff run there may be fewer changes. For Mirotic, he will have a place in the NBA next season if he wants it, where and for how much remains to be seen. And if he wants it, there is always a soft landing spot in Europe.