Bulls Insider: Markkanen Trade Originally Had Forward Heading West

Lauri Markkanen

Getty Lauri Markkanen shoots a three-pointer in a March 16 game against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Arturas Karnisovas and the Chicago Bulls front office have just completed an incredible slew of moves this summer, in finally dealing fourth-year forward Lauri Markkanen.

The Athletic’s Shams Charania was first with reports of Friday’s three-team deal, which also includes the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Portland Trail Blazers:

In return, the Bulls will receive Derrick Jones Jr., a future first-round pick, and a future second-round pick.

Even with the protections on the Trail Blazers’ first-round pick unreleased, this is a home run deal for Chicago.

Markkanen, after four seasons in the Windy City and failed extension talks last season, and has been adamant about finding a new NBA home for months on end.

Now, he gets his wish.

And the Bulls, get a first-round pick.

But according to NBC Sports’ insider K.C. Johnson, the trade almost ended with Lauri Markkanen going elsewhere.

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Trail Blazers Called on Markkanen First

The three-team deal that saw Lauri Markkanen leave the Chicago Bulls perhaps was almost a two-team deal.

On a live stream episode of the Bulls Talk Podcast, NBC Sports’ K.C. Johnson reported that trade talks for the 24-year old began with the Portland Trail Blazers, not the Cleveland Cavaliers, calling:

Originally, it was just Portland calling, ‘Hey, we want Lauri Markkanen.’ At first, this was just going to be Lauri Markkanen landing in Portland. And when the Trail Blazers offered what they ended up sacrificing, Derrick Jones Jr. and a lottery-protected first-round pick, the Bulls asked for that second-round pick and that got too rich for the Trail Blazers blood.

That’s when the two teams found a way to include the Cavaliers:

So then it was incumbent on the sides to drag a third team in. And when the third-team machinations started shaking down, Portland’s like ‘Ok, well we’re not gonna give up a second-round pick, but, how about Larry Nance Jr.?’

As fans now know, he’s ended up in LeBron James’ former stomping grounds, on a four-year/$67-million deal.

Props to Arturas Karnisovas and company for maximizing the seemingly low-valued asset that is Lauri Markkanen.

Markkanen Says Goodbye to Chicago

Lauri Markkanen leaves the Chicago Bulls after 221 games played since he was drafted seventh overall in 2017.

He averaged 13.6 points and 5.3 rebounds in that span.

Yet while it was never all great times and winning basketball, Markkanen still bode the city a heartfelt goodbye.

And in a number of different ways, too.

Markkanen spoke with K.C. Johnson (via NBC Sports) shortly after the trade was announced, and was transparent about his struggles in the Windy City:

The last couple years have been mentally pretty tough. I’ve grown as a person because of that so I wouldn’t change it. I’ve learned a lot. But I just felt like I need to get back to the old me and how I know I can play the game.

He also made sure to thank the front office for helping to make his relocation possible:

I’m happy. I’m really excited and looking forward. We kind of felt like I needed a fresh start. And I appreciate all the people who were involved to help facilitate it and make it happen.

As far as any regrets, Markkanen cited the Bulls inability to make the playoffs in each of his four seasons:

I think obviously I’m most disappointed we didn’t make the postseason one time when I was there. We tried our best obviously. That’s what we’re paid to do. It didn’t work out.

His odds at doing that will be just as low, if not lower, as a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers.

No hard feelings though, Chicago fans:

So thank you. I’ve loved playing in Chicago. Obviously, things didn’t work out. But I got no hard feelings towards them. I’m really happy I got to play there. I’m also really excited for this new chapter.

Markkanen doubled down on that with an Instagram post too:

With Lauri Markkanen headed onto (presumably) greener pastures, the Chicago Bulls can shift their focus to the upcoming year, one headlined by the arrival of exciting talents DeMar DeRozan and Lonzo Ball. 52 days to go.

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