The Chicago Bulls are going to trade Lauri Markkanen at some point, but the team seems dead set on taking their time, and getting somethin of value. According to reports, they value Dallas Mavericks stretch-big Maxi Kleber.
The Athletic’s Tim Kato reports the Mavericks are interested in Markkanen, but there are a few paths that can be taken to pursue the 7-footer.
Mavericks’ Interest in Markkanen
There are reportedly several teams interested in trading for Markkanen. We’ve heard about the Minnesota Timberwolves’ interest, but apparently, the Mavericks have about as strong of an interest as any potential suitor for the 24-year-old.
According to Kato:
Dallas would love to convince Markkanen to sign under his market value — and what is market value, if the market hasn’t provided him the $15 million annually he hoped for — and fit him into the team’s $11 million traded player exception (TPE). That’s beneficial for two reasons: 1) there’s less pressure for Markkanen to be anything but a useful rotational player for the team given his questionable fit starting next to Kristaps Porzingis, and 2) he’s an appealing player who’s still 24 and who the team could trade for a better-fitting one. Markkanen wouldn’t leap at that offer, especially since teams who still have the midlevel exception could also offer him contracts in that range, but he could eventually decide that’s his best business decision. Dallas would have to send something beneficial back to Chicago, but it would be draft- or prospect-related rather than a rotation player.
A frontcourt of Markkanen and Porzingis would certainly offer length and long-range shooting from their bigs. When matched with Luka Doncic, they could have an attractive and versatile offense.
However, they may well be the worst defensive trio in the NBA. Yes, even worse than the Bulls’ Big Three of Zach LaVine, DeMar DeRozan and Nikola Vucevic.
At least the Bulls have two above-average/elite athletes who are capable of playing excellent defense if plugged in on that end of the floor. Markkanen and Doncic will probably never be plus-defenders.
Bulls Interested in Kleber
What do the Mavericks have that the Bulls want? According to Kate, Kleber is at the top of the list, though it is described as a “riskier deal.”
Dallas could offer Markkanen, say, a three-year deal worth $44 million and send back about $10 million in offsetting salary in a direct trade not involving its TPE. I’ve heard Chicago has interest in Kleber; it’s a riskier deal for Dallas giving up both a rotational player and signing Markkanen to a higher salary point. It might be a worthwhile gamble, although you would have to really talk me into it. Kleber has been the better player in past seasons — or, at least, the more useful one for a team with postseason aspirations. He’s struggled in both postseasons, but he was injured throughout the most recent series against the Clippers. Would you trade him and Trey Burke for Markkanen at that price point?
Kleber would fit nicely as a reserve for the Bulls. The starters are pretty much entrenched with Lonzo Ball joining LaVine, DeRozan, Patrick Williams and Vucevic.
The second unit figures to be led by Coby White, Alex Caruso, Troy Brown Jr/Javonte Green, Tony Bradley or Marko Simonovic. Putting Kleber in as the backup power forward would add some much-needed three-point shooting to the unit.
Kleber could even be used as a starter when needed at the power forward or center position. At 6’10”, Kleber averaged 7.1 points per game and made 41% of his threes last season. The 29-year-old also pulled down 5.2 rebounds per contest while appearing in 50 games, and starting 40 of them.
Adding him would go a long way toward fortifying the second unit. While he doesn’t have as high of ceiling as Markkanen, he is tougher and still offers the same floor spacing because of his shooting.