Markkenen, the supposed number two scoring option to all-star Zach LaVine, has had an awkward season of undetermined future with the Bulls.
Before the season, the Bulls and Markkanen failed to agree on an extension to his rookie contract. Markkanen will be a free agent this summer due to the failed contract agreements.
According to Bulls insider K.C Johnson, the two parties were “never close” on any agreement to an extension this past offseason.
Sources tell NBA insider @ShamsCharania that teams have expressed interest in Bulls F Lauri Markkanen and Chicago is listening to suitors.
— The Athletic (@TheAthletic) March 23, 2021
This began the talk of Markkanen’s “prove it” year to stay on the Bulls going forward. Since the start of the season, Markkanen has missed 20 games. He was in COVID-19 protocols at the beginning of the year, and then suffered a shoulder injury against the Orlando Magic.
His offensive statistics have, however, backed up his improvements under new head coach Billy Donovan. This season on offense he has averaged 17.7 points, six rebounds, and close to one assist per game. He is shooting 48.3 percent from the field, 39.6 percent from distance, and 83.1 percent from the charity stripe. He is performing a career-best 115 offensive rating and1.9 offensive box plus/minus.
His defensive play is truly what brings his value down. He is recording a career-worst 113 defensive rating, -1.4 defensive box plus/minus, and not recording a block/steal per game. His inability to protect the paint attributes to the Bulls’ allowance of 50.4 points in the paint per game, which ranks them 26th in the NBA.
While Markkanen’s fourth season in the NBA has been anything but normal for him, it seemed like he reached the approval of the vice president of operations, Arturas Karnisovas, this season.
“I think the things we met before the season and the expectations we set for him I think he met,” said Karnisovas before they played the Denver Nuggets. “Again, before he got hurt he was averaging 19 points and shooting 52 percent from the floor and 40 percent from three. We can’t wait for him to come back (from his injury) and help this team win games.”
With two days before the NBA trade deadline, the Bulls are listening to offers from teams about Markkanen. The New Orleans Pelicans could be one option since the Bulls have been connected to obtaining point guard Lonzo Ball for some time now. Even the Orlando Magic have been trying to trade away their star power forward, Aaron Gordon, which could make for another possible trade suitor.
Many options remain on the table for Markkanen’s future. It would be nice for the Bulls to get some type of value back for Markkanen if they are set on not bringing him back next season. The Bulls need to act quickly and decide whether or not they want to bring their power forward back, since the trade deadline ends Mar. 25.