Analyst: Lauri Markkanen Should Be ‘Top Target’ for Rebuilding Rockets

Lauri Markkanen

Getty Lauri Markkanen handles the ball during a May 15 game against the Brooklyn Nets.

One of, if not the most pressing order of business for the Chicago Bulls this summer will be determining the future of former seventh overall pick Lauri Markkanen.

The fourth-year forward is headed for restricted free agency, after the two sides failed to come to terms on a rookie-based extension in December.

Markkanen’s 2020-2021 season with the Bulls wasn’t without struggle.

He was moved in and out of the starting lineup on multiple occasions before being permanently benched behind veteran big Daniel Theis to close the year.

The 24-year old averaged 13.6 points and 5.3 rebounds across 51 appearances for Chicago this season, while knocking down 40% of his three-point shots.

There’s little doubt as to whether or not a market will develop for Markkanen.

The only question is whether or not it will be via sign-and-trade, as to recoup value for the Bulls, or via a lucrative offer sheet that Chicago refuses to match.

One team that’s already expressed interest in Markkanen is the San Antonio Spurs, but Bleacher Report’s Greg Swartz suggests another Western Conference team could swoop in and sign him.

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Markkanen to Houston?

In his latest work for Bleacher Report, Every NBA Team’s Top Target in 2021 Free Agency, Greg Swartz assigned each NBA team a free agent name that should be atop their priority list this summer.

When it came to the Chicago Bulls, he went with the obvious answer: New Orleans Pelicans guard Lonzo Ball.

Arturas Karnisovas and the front office’s desire to bring the former second overall pick to the Windy City is the worst kept secret in the NBA.

But shortly thereafter, one of the Bulls players was mentioned as a target for a team outside of Chicago.

Swartz argued that Lauri Markkanen should be the top target for the Houston Rockets, especially if they take Jalen Green in the upcoming 2021 NBA Draft:

If the Houston Rockets take shooting guard Jalen Green with the second overall pick, they should want to surround him, Kevin Porter Jr. and John Wall with shooting and keep the driving lanes open…Markkanen isn’t a good low-post scorer or a facilitator, but his skill set would be a natural fit in Houston.

He’s right in that the Bulls’ fourth-year forward would make for a nice fit on this iteration of the Rockets, lead by John Wall and Christian Wood, but longterm whomever they end up taking with the second overall pick later this month.

Even in what most would consider was a down year, Markkanen still managed to shoot 40% from the three-point line on 4.4 attempts per game.

On a team where any three-point shooting will be considered a luxury, he’d be a diamond among the rough.

Point Guard Will be Bulls’ Top Priority

As is implied by the aforementioned interest in Lonzo Ball, the Chicago Bulls top priority this offseason will be filling the starting point guard slot.

They’ve been tied to a number of names in addition to the Pelicans’ guard, including Dennis Schroder, Jalen Brunson, Kyle Lowry, and Spencer Dinwiddie.

No matter who they land, or how, it’s going to cost the Bulls a pretty penny, pushing the Lauri Markkanen agenda to the bottom of the to-do list.

This, if nothing else, is as good a reason as any to think that his time in Chicago has come to an end.

Free agents in line for a big pay raise rarely put their new deal on pause to let their team address other roster holes, before ultimately circling back.

Trust that Lauri Markkanen and the Chicago Bulls are no exception.

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