The 7-footer out of Arizona made it clear he wants a “fresh start” to his career and wants a new team. He recently unfollowed all of the Bulls’ social media pages.
The big man is finding it increasingly difficult to find a new home in the free agency market after missing the fire sale of the first couple days of free agency. Many NBA teams have found themselves in the red for cap space, nearly a week into free agency, according to Spotrac.
However, one team, in particular, the New Orleans Pelicans, has found interest in Markkanen by the use of their $17 million trade exception, according to NBA insider Marc Stein.
The Pelicans have expressed interest in Lauri Markkanen and hold a sizable trade exception ($17 million) to take the restricted free agent in on a contract he seeks, sources say.
The Bulls, though, are said to want a first-round pick to facilitate. More: https://t.co/A6ycVmnrjq
— Marc Stein (@TheSteinLine) August 8, 2021
This would be great for the Bulls because sign-and-trades are usually an anomaly of the NBA offseason. Markkanen already wants to leave, so the Bulls, unfortunately, have no upper hand in any trade market for him because a team can make him an offer sheet without giving up assets.
Since the Pelicans can only acquire Markkanen through their trade exception, this would mean the Bulls would definitely get back assets for Markkanen if he were to end up in a Pelicans jersey.
That being said, the Bulls have expressed interest in acquiring a first-round draft pick back from the Pelicans for Markkanen in a trade, according to Stein in the same tweet.
This would be very helpful for Arturas Karnisovas & Co., considering they have traded away three first-rounders and two second-round picks in the past five months for Nikola Vucevic, DeMar DeRozan, and Lonzo Ball.
There are some hurdles the Bulls have to jump to meet this ideal situation for Markkanen
First off, the Bulls would have to convince the Pelicans to give up a future first-round pick for Markkanen. As Bulls fans know all too well, Markkanen has struggled quite a bit through his rookie contract with the Bulls.
This past season was the first season he was able to eclipse over 45 percent shooting from the field. Both that and his three-point percentage improved. However, he averaged just 13.6 points per game, a career-low for him in that category. The 7-footer is also a pacifist when it comes to driving the ball and getting his hands dirty in the paint.
Markkanen also struggles profoundly on the defensive side of the ball. He carries a well below-average defensive box plus/minus with a career -1.2 and last year was the first season he held a positive net rating on the floor.
Markkanen has potential, but he hasn’t shown NBA maturity four years into his career.
The Bulls are under investigation with the New Orleans Pelicans for their sign-and-trade with Lonzo Ball.
The Bulls and the Pelicans are currently under investigation for tampering with the sign-and-trade they agreed upon for Ball.
According to league rules, teams are not allowed to communicate with players before free agency opens. Both teams could be docked $10 million, draft capital, or executive suspensions.
The two teams most likely have to check this box from their to-do list before even talking about a trade for Markkanen.
What’s the bottom line?
The breakdown of this potential move for Markkanen is that it would be extremely helpful for the Bulls to get him off the books.
Markkanen has no interest in playing for Chicago, and neither does the organization.
Markkanen’s qualifying offer would set the Bulls back in cap space and would send the team deep into the depths of luxury tax. His qualifying offer holds a $20 million cap hit for next season.
It is imperative that the Bulls set Markkanen free, but a bonus for the front office if they can retain some assets in return for the big man. A first-round pick seems a bit greedy but would be extremely helpful if they were able to pull that off.
Karnisovas has completed three sign-and-trades this offseason, which is unheard of in one NBA offseason. Why not go for another?