Lauri Markkanen Projected to Land in Western Conference on Budget Deal

Getty Lauri Markkanen

The Chicago Bulls‘ offseason will be powered by two major questions: what are they doing at point guard, and what is going to happen with Lauri Markkanen?

The point-guard situation is fluid.

There are a number of options ranging from pie-in-the-sky concepts like a trade for Portland Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard to standing pat with Coby White and trying to further develop him at the position.

In the case of Markkanen, and his restricted-free-agency status, it seems pretty clear, the Bulls aren’t going to have him on the roster in 2021-22. They may match any offer he receives so that they can trade him, to prevent from losing a valuable young player without compensation.

However, it seems almost impossible to expect him to be in a Bulls uniform next season. So, the question remains, where does he land?

Texas Seems Like the Most Likely Spot, But Which City?

Bleacher Report’s Grant Hughes wrote a piece predicting the landing spot for the NBA’s top restricted free agents. Hughes believes Markkanen will sign with the Spurs for no more than an average annual salary of $15 million per season. According to Hughes, the writing is on the wall for Markkanen.

Hughes wrote:

The No. 7 pick in the 2017 draft lost his starting role with the Chicago Bulls midway through his fourth season, despite shooting a career-best 40.2 percent from long range. Chicago clearly wasn’t satisfied with Markkanen’s one-dimensional game, and his demotion only reinforced the lack of faith the franchise showed in him by not agreeing to an extension prior to the 2020-21 season. If Markkanen is part of the Bulls’ long-term plans, the team is performing a phenomenal act of misdirection. Everything Chicago has done over the past year or so suggests it’s ready to move on. Markkanen’s shooting is legit. He’s at 36.6 percent on 1,346 career attempts from deep and is particularly deadly from the corners. Any team in need of a big who can space the floor in a limited role should have its eye on the 7-footer, though it should be understood that Markkanen is going to be a target on D. He needs to land with an organization that already has strong defenders at the guard and wing spots, plus a genuine rim-protector inside. That’s basically the perfect description of the San Antonio Spurs, who should field a 2021-22 lineup including Dejounte Murray, Derrick White and Jakob Poeltl.

I’m not sure what the Spurs plan to do with DeMar DeRozan, but a team with Murray, White, Poeltl and Markkanen sounds strong. They would desperately need another wing player who can create his own shot as well as dribble-drive-kick-out opportunities for Markkanen and White.

However, it is a start.

Would the Bulls Be Interested in Any of the Sign-and-Trade Options?

Chicago is believed to have interest in the New Orleans Pelicans’ Lonzo Ball, and there has been talk there could be a match with the Atlanta Hawks’ John Collins. The latter could be seen as a bit of an upgrade over Markkanen.

Bulls fans who like Collins or Ball won’t like Hughes’ predictions for those two. He sees Ball landing with the Knicks and Collins staying in Atlanta for a multi-year deal worth more than $100 million.

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