The Chicago Bulls hope Nikola Mirotic comes over from Spain next season, but the organization wants to make sure whenever he does make the move, the young prospect doesn't have to deal with huge expectations.
Mirotic, selected by the Bulls with the 24th pick in the 2011 NBA draft, was named ACB MVP after leading Real Madrid to a 30-4 record last season.
"He's doing great and we keep our eye on him," Bulls executive vice president John Paxson said Thursday on "The Waddle & Silvy Show" on ESPN Chicago 1000.
Paxson doesn't want Mirotic to go through the same thing former Bull Toni Kukoc experienced when he came to the NBA in 1993.
"I felt bad actually initially because I was a part of the process like when Toni Kukoc came over I was on the team and I saw that whole thing. The last thing we want to do is put undue pressure on Nikola when he does come over," Paxson said. "No matter when he does come over and what he's achieved over there, the NBA is a different game and he's going to have go through a learning process. And he's going to have to get his feet wet and himself acclimated to a new culture, all those things.
"So we have great hopes for him. He is a very, very good basketball player, but we're not going to bring him over here and all of a sudden say he's the next coming of whoever. He's going to be a part of our program when he does come over. We believe his skill level and character fit what we are about. So when the time does come he'll blend in with what we have and that's the route we're going to go."
The Bulls have always been hopeful that Mirotic would be ready to come to the NBA for the 2014-15 season but Paxson said there are a lot of different things that need to happen for the 22-year-old, 6-foot-10 power forward to come to Chicago.
"It depends," Paxson said. "These are all good questions, but they're not things we can answer right now because there are variables out there that haven't happened yet and we need to see how it all plays out. The good news is that he's in our pipeline and that at some point he will come over."
Aside from Mirotic, the Bulls are going to have several tough decisions to make next summer, including whether to re-sign All-Star Luol Deng and whether to amnesty the final year of Carlos Boozer's contract.
"You can't underestimate the power of this new collective bargaining agreement we have in place," Paxson said. "There are certain things that are going to prevent teams from maybe being as aggressive as they would want to be in putting their roster together. I think most of us are going to have to be patient and maybe let some things play out before we make decisions because if you do get caught in this new CBA making poor decisions you're going to be in trouble. You're going to get stuck with a roster that is difficult to move and you're going to be in a financial position that is not advantageous for you. So you've got to be patient and we're willing to play that game."