Now that the playoffs are underway, and without the Chicago Bulls as participants, fans are looking ahead to a highly-anticipated offseason for the team, starting with the upcoming free agency period.
The team’s need for a true point guard will likely be the focus, but there’s a lot of speculation surrounding forward Lauri Markkanen, and his future with the club.
After the two sides failed to come to terms on an extension back in December, he’ll enter the offseason as a restricted free agent, meaning the Bulls can match whatever offer comes his way.
As of today, it’s unclear where either side stands on a deal that keeps them linked long-term.
Markkanen is coming off an up-and-down fourth year where he averaged 13.6 points and 5.3 rebounds per game.
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Markkanen’s Top Free Agency Destination
In his latest reporting for the Chicago Sun-Times, Joe Cowley snuck in a nugget on Lauri Markkanen’s upcoming free agency, and where he’d “privately” like to end up next:
The one place he privately wants to land is with the Mavericks, joining guard Luka Doncic and big man Kristaps Porzingis. The Mavericks will have serious cap room this offseason and were in the middle of the pack in three-point shooting, but Markkanen and Porzingis might be too similar in terms of their skills for that to happen.
The idea of Markkanen in a Mavericks uniform seems unlikely, but not impossible. Dallas is currently in the middle of a playoff series with the LA Clippers, with a one-game lead heading into Game Two.
But if they were to fall short in the postseason once again, one would expect their front office to begin exploring the idea of moving on from Kristaps Porzingis, who’s failed in every way to serve as the Robin to Luka Doncic’s Batman.
It’s not hard to imagine, that the Mavericks could fall short to the Clippers, given the fact that it was LA who eliminated them in the first round last year, and neither team did much roster altering in the offseason.
As for Porzingis, well, he provides a lot of what Markkanen does when he’s healthy and on the court.
But his horrid stretch of injuries not just in Dallas, but over his entire career, make a future where he’s the second-best player on a title team less and less likely with each absence.
And his $30+ million salary doesn’t help the situation either.
Markkanen would make for a nice fit next to Doncic, and more importantly, he’d come at a cheaper value, allowing the Mavericks to invest more into the roster surrounding their franchise cornerstone.
And he’d likely be a starter, too, something he’s been vocal about as a personal priority.
So in theory, Lauri Markkanen and the Dallas Mavericks seem a match, at least on the court.
But it’s getting him there that will be difficult. Will they be ready to make the necessary moves this offseason, in order to maintain a contending agenda with Luka Doncic? And would the Chicago Bulls just let him walk?
These questions will only be answered if and when the exact aforementioned series of circumstances arrive.
Until then, don’t doubt that the market for Markkanen will grow as the offseason inches closer.
Other Potential Suitors
Cowley went on to mention the New York Knicks as a potential landing spot for Lauri Markkanen, too:
So which other team might be interested in Markkanen? Keep an eye on the Knicks, who will have the most cap room of any team and can use more shooting.
But for all the points I just mentioned as to why the 24-year old would be a good fit in Dallas, this is a non-fit.
Anything can happen, and this Knicks roster could look different at the start of free agency, but for now, there’s no way Markkanen finds himself a starting job in New York of all places.
Julius Randle supplants their starting power forward spot, his most natural position. And we know that because of Bulls’ coach Billy Donovan’s failed attempts at rolling out Markkanen at the three in jumbo lineups this year.
If Markkanen was willing to come off the bench in favor of making a deep playoff run on a team like the Knicks, then maybe. But for now, fans can cross this one off the list of possibilities.
But elsewhere in the Western Conference, we know there’s interest coming from the San Antonio Spurs. That much has been reported frequently, but most recently by A. Sherrod Blakely of Bleacher Report.
And lastly, don’t count out a return to the Chicago Bulls.
As unhappy as Lauri Markkanen has sounded at different points this season, it’s the NBA, and anything can happen.
One player getting paid to stay with his only-ever home wouldn’t exactly qualify as extraordinary.