The immediate outlook wasn’t great for Lauri Markkanen when he was benched for Thaddeus Young, but he’s accepted his new role, and is thriving because of it.
Now winners of three straight, the Chicago Bulls are prepping for a late-season playoff push.
Markkanen figures to be a large contributor, now that he’s adjusted to his new spot in head coach Billy Donovan’s rotation.
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Markkanen’s Hot Streak
In his five games off the bench this season, Lauri Markkanen’s posting 11.8 points on 62 percent shooting from the field, and 53 percent shooting from three.
He’s not the only Bulls player to undergo a role change. Second-year guard Coby White was also shuffled to the bench, in place of Tomas Satoransky.
Markkanen told reporters (via NBC Sports) that the whole team, not just those two, have had to sacrifice in light of the roster shift at the trade deadline:
We all have to make sacrifices — not just me, Coby. I think everybody’s sacrificed with the new guys coming in and the way we’re playing.
But as far as his new role, Markkanen acknowledged the differences in his approach:
It’s a little bit different just reading the matchups. If I have a smaller guy on me, I think I’ve been posting up more now and that’s partly just the emphasis on just being physical. I just try to be aggressive, whoever it is.
His 18-point performance against the Toronto Raptors earned praise from opposing coach Nick Nurse, the 2020 Coach of the Year:
Every time he touched the ball, something good happened. And every time we made a mistake he made us pay and he’s only out there for 18 minutes. That’s part of the reason they got to play him there I think.
Chicago’s bench outscored Toronto’s 47-20.
Not only did Markkanen’s role in the rotation change, but he also has been moved up and played more minutes at small forward. It’s the first time in his career that he’s played out of the frontcourt, and he’s still adjusting.
But the Chicago Bulls look renewed, and ready for whatever’s next.
The fact that it’s come at the same time as Lauri Markkanen’s bench breakout is no coincidence.
Updated Bulls Playoff Odds
Now officially amidst a winning streak, the Chicago Bulls definitely look like a playoff team.
It’s getting there that’s the problem, and they’ve still got a ways to go.
The Bulls are now 22-28, which is good for the 10th seed in the East, two games back of the eighth-seed New York Knicks.
Five Thirty Eight currently has a Chicago playoff berth at 22 percent likelihood.
That’s good for the fifth worst mark of all teams with greater than one percent odds.
But they’ve got an opportunity to make a run here, in there next span of games.
After playing a shorthanded Atlanta Hawks team on Friday night, they’ll play the league-worst Minnesota Timberwolves and Orlando Magic next week, with the streaky Memphis Grizzlies in between.
Tankathon.com has the Chicago Bulls remaining schedule ranked as the 14th toughest in the NBA.
Time to lock in.