The Chicago Bulls and Lauri Markkanen may be set to part ways after this season. Markkanen is about to become a restricted free agent, and Toronto Raptors head coach Nick Nurse’s admiration could suggest his team is a candidate to sign the 23-year-old to an offer sheet.
After the Raptors’ 122-113 loss to the Bulls on April 8, Nurse was very complimentary of Markkanen. He referred to Markkanen as “a really good player.” He said Markkanen “was unbelievable tonight, and he played 18 minutes. He was unbelievable. Every time he touched the ball, something good happened, and every time we made a mistake, he made us pay.”
File this one under “Teams who could be interested in Lauri” and circle back in the summer.
— Jordan Maly (@JordanCMaly) April 10, 2021
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The game was one of Markkanen’s best from an efficiency standpoint. He scored 18 points in 18 minutes on 8-for-10 shooting from the field and 2-for-4 from the three-point line. Markkanen also had four rebounds with no turnovers and a team-best plus-23 in the plus/minus department.
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Good Outings Have Been Hard to Find for Markkanen
Markkanen and point guard Coby White were benched earlier this month in favor of Tomas Satoransky and veteran Thaddeus Young.
Markkanen has shot the ball well in April, making 60 percent of his shots from the field, 47 percent from the three-point line, and 87 percent from the foul line. However, his poor defense has been a killer for a Bulls team struggling mightily on that end of the floor.
At seven feet tall, Markkanen doesn’t possess the foot speed to defend on the perimeter effectively, but he’s not sturdy enough to be a solid low-post defender.
Head coach Billy Donovan has tried to hide Markkanen’s defensive deficiencies.
Still, as it is, if he’s not shooting lights out as he did against the Raptors, he’s more of a liability overall.
Raptors Could Sign Markkanen to an Offer Sheet
Markkanen will be a restricted free agent at season’s end, which means other teams can sign him to an offer sheet. The Bulls would have the right to match that offer if they want to retain Markkanen.
However, considering he’s been relegated to a bench role, it’s hard to imagine Chicago making that decision. Retaining Markkanen might cost the Bulls as much $20 million per season for the next four years. That would lock him in as a vital part of the core moving forward, and it’s pretty plain to see that idea isn’t working well.
Perhaps Markkanen can sign or be traded to another team in a sign-and-trade situation, and he can make good on his obvious talents. At this point, it would be in both the Bulls and Markkanen’s best interest to part ways.
Chicago needs a more defensive-minded and physically tougher floor-stretcher, and Markkanen needs to find a roster with players who can hide what he doesn’t do well.