Few teams made a bigger statement at the trade deadline than the Chicago Bulls, who brought in Nikola Vucevic in a blockbuster deal with the Orlando Magic.
No matter what happens this season, and they’re eyeing a playoff berth, they set themselves up as one of the most pressured teams in the upcoming offseason.
With two All-Stars in Vucevic and Zach LaVine, Chicago will have to make some significant structuring around them to guarantee they’ve got a competitive roster in 2021-2022.
But until they can look at the free agency and/or trade market, the Bulls will have to first look inward at, and come to terms on all of their in-house options.
That starts with Lauri Markkanen.
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A Coveted Free Agent
In his latest for Bleacher Report, Every NBA Team’s Updated 2021 Free-Agency Big Board, Greg Swartz listed three offseason targets for each of the NBA’s 30 teams.
Fourth-year forward Markkanen appeared on two of those lists: the Houston Rockets and San Antonio Spurs.
The 23-year old is coming off an up-and-down season in Chicago where he’s started 25 of 37 games played.
Swartz admitted that this season hasn’t done much for Markkanen’s value, which is exactly why the Rockets should swing big in hopes of landing the stretch four:
Shooting their shot for Markkanen would add a floor-spacing power forward to the mix, keeping the driving lanes open for Kevin Porter Jr and John Wall. While he no longer looks like a future star, Markkanen is still just 23 and should at least be a solid starter for a decade or more.
Houston’s offense has struggled largely this season, but they’ve also rolled out the most different starting lineup combinations in the entire NBA.
Some semblance of continuity would help them right the ship.
Whether Markkanen provides that or not, is unclear. He’s played just 207 out of 286 possible games in Chicago.
Markkanen to the Spurs?
As far as his fit in San Antonio, Swartz again mentions Markkanen’s ability to space the floor, and his price-point as opposed to bigger targets:
Markkanen wouldn’t cost as much as Collins and keeps the floor spread for guys like Dejounte Murray, Derrick White and Keldon Johnson.
The Spurs this season are 28th in three-point makes, 29th in three-point attempts, and 20th in percentage.
There’s little doubt that Markkanen could help to boost those numbers. He’s shooting a career-high 38 percent on six attempts from three this year.
This also isn’t the first time he’s been linked to San Antonio. Swartz’s colleague at Bleacher Report, A. Sherrod Blakely, reported Spurs interest in Markkanen earlier this month:
The pool of teams that will have the salary-cap space to make a run at Markkanen is limited, but multiple executives and scouts anticipate the San Antonio Spurs will make a strong offer this summer.
Both teams, two-thirds of the NBA’s representation in Texas, will have ample amounts of cap space.
As he’s approaching restricted free agency, Markkanen’s future with the Bulls will depend entirely on how much they’re willing to pay to keep him in Chicago.
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