The future of fourth-year forward Lauri Markkanen ruled headlines throughout the Chicago Bulls 2020-2021 campaign, and the lack of a resolution is bleeding into their offseason.
After failing to come to terms on an extension to keep the 24-year old in the Windy City moving forward, a trade was always the most likely route for both sides.
That much was made particularly clear when the March trade deadline passed, and Markkanen remained in Chicago.
Everyone expected the Bulls to revisit trade talks for the seven-footer once the offseason came around.
And they have, but the projected market for Markkanen has now dried up, just seven days into free agency, leaving both parties in a sort of twilight zone.
With their asking price now revealed by insider Marc Stein, it’s no surprise there’s no traction on a sign-and-trade.
As he goes on to note, the lack of other options isn’t helping Markkanen find his way out of Chicago.
If you’re curious about the aforementioned tampering investigation, Heavy.com’s very own Brian Mazique has you covered, here.
Nothing’s off the table at this point, including a return to Chicago, but it’s looking less and less likely that both Lauri Markkanen and the Bulls will get what they each want this offseason.
Markkanen Asking for Too Much
In regards to Lauri Markkanen, it’s widely thought that his steep asking price isn’t helping his already limited market.
Kristian Winfield of the New York Daily News reported such early last week:
Is he right to ask for top dollar? Perhaps.
According to Stathead.com, Markkanen’s one of just 25 players last season to post a 40% shooting average from three on a minimum of five attempts per game.
And almost all 24 of those, outside of the occasional rookie and tenured veteran, will make more than $10-million in 2021-2022.
Regardless, it hasn’t materialized yet, and that’s got to be somewhat indicative of Markkanen’s market.
And thus, both he and the Chicago Bulls face a tough decision.
Markkanen could always come back on the $9+ million qualifying offer, but his latest comments could also be considered as bridge burners:
So, where do they go from here?
Is there any validity to a sign-and-trade with the New Orleans Pelicans?
A Double Sign-and-Trade?
If the New Orleans Pelicans won’t relent on the first-round pick, three-and-d wing Josh Hart could appeal to the Chicago Bulls, who will likely prioritize defense for the rest of free agency.
The 26-year old, a restricted free agent, averaged 9.2 points, eight rebounds, 2.3 assists per game last season.
With Lauri Markkanen one of few avenues remaining for Chicago to upgrade the roster, it’d make sense to try and pull off a double sign-and-trade for Hart, a noted defensive presence.
But would the Pelicans play ball? Hart’s yet to receive offer sheets from any other team, and with his market about as limited as Markkanen’s, what other route is there?
The 2021-2022 NBA season won’t tip off until October 19, which is over two months out.
Up until Opening Night, Lauri Markkanen’s free agency will present Chicago Bulls fans with a storyline to watch.
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