With each game that passes, and particularly each loss, it becomes clearer and clearer that Lauri Markkanen doesn’t have a future with the Chicago Bulls.
Despite shooting a career-high .385 clip from behind the arc, the 23-year old’s failed to cement himself into the future of basketball in the Windy City.
Part of that isn’t his fault, given the up-and-down nature of this Bulls’ campaign.
Regardless, it’s as safe a bet as any that he’s not in Chicago for opening night next season.
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Markkanen to Minnesota?
In his latest for Bleacher Report, NBA Offseason Trades for League’s Most Disappointing Teams, Greg Swartz made an offseason deal for six teams he deemed “disappointing” this season.
To the surprise of few, the Chicago Bulls made that list.
For them to be so far outside of the Eastern Conference playoff picture after trading for an All-Star at the trade deadline is almost unfathomably bad.
That being said, Swartz suggested the team approach the Minnesota Timberwolves about Lauri Markkanen.
The return for Chicago? Veteran point guard Ricky Rubio, and two future second-round picks:
Chicago could also use a true point guard, allowing Zach LaVine and Coby White to focus on their own offensive talents rather than try to fill the playmaking role they’ve been forced into at times.
The deal would take Markkanen agreeing to a sign-and-trade, as he’ll be a restricted free agent this offseason. But if he would agree to it, Swartz sees Minnesota as a likely landing spot:
Now coming off the bench in Chicago, Markkanen could once again compete for a starting job in Minnesota. His scoring and floor-spacing ability (14.1 points on 39.1 percent shooting from deep) keeps the driving lanes open for players like Anthony Edwards and D’Angelo Russell, giving them another pick-and-pop target to play off of.
There’s little doubt Markkanen would want to go somewhere he sees himself potentially starting. As recently as Sunday afternoon, he reaffirmed that it’s his goal.
Rubio Would Provide a Real PG
Even amidst their downside without Zach LaVine, there’s an argument to be made that with a real point guard the Chicago Bulls wouldn’t be as far as four games back of the 10th seed and final play-in spot.
Coby White’s done a commendable job, even if only in terms of effort over the last few games.
He’s averaging six assists over their last five, but unfortunately, they’ve almost all come during failed Chicago comeback attempts in the fourth quarter.
As Swartz mentions, Rubio has been one of the premier passers in the NBA this season:
Rubio ranks in the top-15 this season in assist percentage (34.1 percent) and assists per game (6.5) and has never been one to clog up an offense with his own shots. He would set the table for everyone else on the Bulls roster, allowing players like LaVine, White, Nikola Vucevic and Patrick Williams to shine.
The 10-year veteran is under contract through next season at $17.8 million, which might come as a sticker shock to some. But his presence could open up the floor entirely for the Bulls’ offense.
Among all players in the NBA this season averaging five or more assists, only Draymond Green and T.J. McConnell have taken fewer field-goal attempts than Rubio, per Stathead.
He’s the absolute inverse of White, in that he’s looking to pass before he’s looking for his shot.
That’s not a strike against Chicago’s second-year guard, but his fit has long been determined more as a sixth man than the floor general in a winning team’s starting five.
Ricky Rubio isn’t holding the Minnesota Timberwolves back by any means.
They’ve just got a number of leaks with only so much duct tape.
Lauri Markkanen would represent a better fit for their current roster needs.
Updated Bulls Playoff Odds
After their latest loss to the Philadelphia 76ers, the Chicago Bulls drop to 26-39.
That’s good for the 12th seed in the Eastern Conference, and three games back of the 10th seed Washington Wizards.
Five Thirty Eight has the Bulls’ playoff chances at less than one percent.
Elsewhere, Tankathon.com has Chicago’s remaining schedule as the 10th most difficult in the entire NBA.
So the odds are stacked against the Chicago Bulls, who are 4-6 in their last 10.
Seven games to go.
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