The curious case of Lauri Markkanen continues for the city of Chicago and their new front office. Over the course of four seasons, Markkanen, 23, has dealt with a variety of issues; overwhelmingly inconsistent play along with a multitude of injuries has left the front office questioning if he’s the player that was once supposed to be the cornerstone piece and building block for this rebuild.
Along with competing for a playoff spot, this year was supposed to serve as a litmus test for Arturas Karnisovas and Marc Eversley to determine if the product out of Arizona had a future with the Bulls like the previous management believed when they selected him seventh overall. After a remarkable rookie season, fresh off the Jimmy Butler blockbuster trade, the “Finnisher” made an immediate impact averaging 15.2 points and 7.5 rebounds, while showcasing his stellar 3-point range. That earned him All-Rookie first-team honors–brimming with potential.
After that first season, he averaged 18.7 points and nine rebounds in year two–his best season, in my opinion. Moreover, in year three Markkanen has struggled mightily, averaging career lows in every statistical category. And now this season, in a contract year, he’s once again leaving us confused as to what type of player he is.
Don’t get me wrong, Markkanen is a unique talent. He has one of the quickest releases in the league and can shoot the lights out of the ball. The four-year big can score on all three levels on the court with profound efficiency. In his rookie season, he surpassed Damian Lillard as the fastest player to accumulate 100 3-pointers made.
Along with his shooting prowess, he’s also able to put the ball on the floor and drive to the hoop; an extremely rare talent for a 7-footer, which ultimately makes him the quintessential stretch forward in this era of basketball. He has a playstyle reminiscent of Kristaps Porzingas and, dare I say it, Dirk Nowitzki.
Do not underestimate his athleticism either.
Lauri went BANG BANG ? pic.twitter.com/PoHqFeJvTQ
— Def Pen Hoops (@DefPenHoops) March 17, 2021
So what’s the problem?
Lauri Markkanen has all the tools to be successful in this league, however, he fails to consistently string along games to give the new front office confidence that he’ll be compatible with the roster for the foreseeable future. In his first 15 games, he averaged 19.4 points per game on 52.6% shooting and 43.5% from 3.
Since then, he has averaged 13.9 points on 41.3% from the field and 31.8% beyond the arc. These numbers speak volumes to the confusion circulating around a player with such a lethal offensive arsenal.
Apart from this, when the 23-year-old isn’t hitting his shot, he brings absolutely no other value to the court. With the exception of his second season(9 rebounds per game) he’s failed to average over 7.5 rebounds; averaging just 6.3 last year and 6.0 in the 2020-2021 season. In comparison, that ranks Lauri Markkanen 80th in the league in rebounds per game.
Along with his abysmal rate of rebounding, he offers no help in the passing/playmaking game. In four seasons he’s never averaged over two assists per game. So, when he’s having a bad shooting night, don’t expect him to impact or contribute in any other facets of the game. His play can be extremely detrimental when his shot is off.
Similarly, his ineffectiveness translates to the defensive side of the ball, as Markkanen has never managed to average over a steal or block per game; often serving as a liability on defense.
Versatility is what President of Basketball Operation Arturas Karnisovas is searching for. After acquiring Nikola Vucevic prior to the trade deadline, along with Daniel Theis, Markkanen’s days appear to be numbered. Fourth overall pick Patrick Williams continues to showcase his undeniable talent and versatility at the power forward position; his ascension doesn’t bode well for our favorite Finnish big.
The Chicago Bulls don’t see Lauri Markkanen as a long term fit with Nikola Vucevic and are looking at teams that have shown interest in him, per @KeithSmithNBA.
— Daniel Greenberg (@ChiSportUpdates) March 25, 2021
A frontcourt featuring Williams and Vucevic could fully maximize this squad’s true potential. The move to acquire Vucevic let me know that Markkanen isn’t in their future plans or that his future role will be coming off the bench. A frontcourt featuring those two bigs would be a disaster on the defensive end and a noticeably unnatural fit on the offensive.
Overall, I do believe that Lauri Markkanen is a starter in this league with star potential. However, with the way that this roster is currently constructed, and the direction it’s trending in, I don’t believe the front office should invest in Markkanen–especially at his asking price. With all of Chicago’s defensive woes, their money would be better spent trying to land a 3 and D forward to accommodate for their issues on defense.
He’s also battled mightily with the injury bug during his tenure in the NBA. In his sophomore season he sat out 6-8 weeks with an elbow injury, and this year he was sidelined for 4-6 weeks with a shoulder issue. Ever since his rookie season he’s failed to play over 53 games, albeit, we’re still in the midst of this season and last year was cut short, it’s hard to invest max dollars on an asset that has an injury-riddled history.
It’s also been made very clear that Zach LaVine and Lauri Markkanen’s play styles do not coincide with one another. As a result, it’s unfortunate but Chicago should let the restricted free agent walk in the upcoming free agency.