The Chicago Bulls are 18-22 coming off of another heartbreaking loss to the Denver Nuggets on Friday, with the NBA’s March 25 trade deadline just five days away.
It’s clear they’re in need of a few roster upgrades, but where do they start?
Almost every piece that teams would take interest in is an essential piece to their on-court product. Rumors have largely circled veteran Thaddeus Young, and pending restricted free agent Lauri Markkanen.
Would selling on one of those two be enough to dramatically improve the Bulls’ playoff chances? They’re currently the 10th seed in the Eastern Conference with 32 games left to play.
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Lauri Remains Committed to the Bulls
23-year old Markkanen spoke with the media (via NBC Sports) ahead of Friday’s loss and was asked his feelings on the upcoming deadline and his future with the Chicago Bulls.
Despite having failed to land an extension with Chicago in December, he’s steadily optimistic:
I’m not making any predictions on that. I’m going day-by-day and controlling what I can control. I’m 100 percent committed, and that’s how it still is.
His future with the team has been in question since that December deadline, where sitting reportedly four-million apart annually, the two sides couldn’t hit on a new long-term deal.
Health and availability aside, it’s been a career-year for Markkanen. Still, he acknowledged the areas of his game that are in need of improvement, shedding light on some of the things he’s discussed with his head coach:
I want to be more active on the court. I feel like I haven’t made shots the way that I can make them. Just make plays for my teammates, and obviously the rebounding area, I mean that’s one of the things Billy (Donovan) challenged me in coming back from an injury, just being physical even though I was coming back from an injury.
Averaging a career-low 5.8 rebounds, there’s little argument there. But as far as shot-making, Markkanen’s averaging career-high percentages in both shooting from the field (.498) and behind the three-point line (.405).
Those last two numbers have seemed fictional as of late, with Markkanen scoring just 20 points on eight-of-21 shooting from the field over the Bulls’ back-to-back losses to San Antonio and Denver.
The 23-year old was notably absent in Friday night’s overtime period against the Nuggets, and not because he was in foul trouble or injured, but because of Otto Porter Jr.’s hot shooting.
That’s not a great look with just three games separating the Chicago Bulls and the trade deadline, and Lauri Markkanen’s future largely a question mark.
Expect Chicago to Make A Move
Time and time again, this Bulls front office and their players alike have made it clear that making the playoffs is the priority and goal for this season. Chicago hasn’t done so since 2017.
Given the way things are trending, with the team now having dropped two straight and four of their last six, it’s seeming more and more likely that they will pull the trigger on some kind of deal.
As NBC Sports’ K.C. Johnson noted in his latest, it’s getting easier and easier to see the frameworks of what appears to be writing on the wall:
When the so-called frontcourt of the future is watching a 34-year-old veteran in (Thad) Young, an expiring contract in (Otto) Porter and a hustling worker bee in (Ryan) Arcidiacono (down the stretch), that doesn’t bode well.
Even if it’s just finding a more capable backup point guard to play alongside Coby White, or bringing in a more qualified rim protector than Wendell Carter Jr., the Bulls seem headed for a shake-up of some kind.
Expect the nature of that shake-up to be determined over this final three-game stretch before the deadline.