As the Bulls are settling into offseason mode they have many decisions to make. After another disappointing season, the front office is tasked with making major improvements to the roster. This team is now a mixture of players from the old and new front offices. It’s now up to Vice President of Basketball Operations Artūras Karnišovas and General Manager Marc Eversley to decide who should stay and who should go. There’s one player at the forefront of it all, forward Lauri Markkanen. Ahead of the 2020-21 season, Markkanen attempted to get an extension with the team.
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) December 21, 2020
That did not pan out and he needed to prove his worth to the team. With the season now over it doesn’t appear that Markkanen proved his worth. At this stage, Markkanen is set to be a free agent. However, the Bulls have a few options when it comes to Markkanen.
Let him walk
The first option would be simply to let Markkanen walk. If you look at how he performed this season he didn’t make a case for the Bulls to re-sign him. He was demoted to a bench role midway through the season for good reason.
He regressed in every important category outside of field goal percentage. Markkanen was demoted due to his inconsistency. You never knew which Lauri Markkanen would show up each game. It was rumored ahead of the season that Markkanen would be looking to get $18-$20 million per year. There’s absolutely no reason for the Bulls to match an offer like that. Markkanen’s win share per 48 minutes this season was .109 the league average is .100. Why would the Bulls pay $18-$20 million per year for an average player. I’m not saying Lauri can’t be successful in this league but he hasn’t been successful with the Bulls thus far.
Sign and trade
Another option that will give the Bulls something in return is the sign and trade. In this scenario, the Bulls would need to find a team to partner with that has high interest in Markkanen. They can then sign Markkanen to a deal and immediately deal him to the other team. There are a lot of intriguing options out there. Some teams have reportedly shown interest in Markkanen.
Multiple executives and scouts anticipate the San Antonio Spurs will make a 'strong offer' to Lauri Markkanen this summer, per Bleacher Report pic.twitter.com/2YrHale84B
— NBA Central (@TheNBACentral) April 17, 2021
San Antonio Swap
The Spurs may be the team to watch as they reportedly have an interest in Markkanen. With that in mind, the Bulls may be taking a look at their roster to see if they can make a deal. There are a few options out there for the Bulls if they are looking to make a trade with the Spurs. They could try and get pieces like center Jakob Poeltl or Drew Eubanks. If they really wanted to get something done they could even partner with other teams as they move to push Markkanen. While the Spurs have reported interest in Markannen it appears that Markkanen has his eyes set on one team in particular.
Lauri Markkanen is going to have the opportunity to sign an offer sheet with any team this offseason, but the Chicago Bulls can keep him by matching that offer.
A team that Lauri wants to join is the Dallas Mavericks, per @JCowleyHoops.
— Daniel Greenberg (@ChiSportUpdates) May 22, 2021
Markkanen reportedly has an interest in joining forward Luka Doncic in Dallas this offseason. This opens up another interesting opportunity for the Bulls front office. Dallas has quite a few interesting pieces the Bulls might be able to grab including, forward Nicolo Melli, guard Josh Richardson, guard Jalen Brunson, & center Dwight Powell. These are all some intriguing young options that they could bring in for Markkanen and maybe another player.
The sign and trade option is the best-case scenario for the Bulls as they will be able to get some return on Markkanen. If they can’t find teams interested enough to do a sign and trade and have no interest in bringing him back then he will simply walk for nothing.
Keep Markkanen in Chicago
The final and probably least likely option is to keep Lauri in Chicago. The reason it’s the least likely option is because of the money Markkanen wants. It’s too high of a price for a team that is looking to bring in some new talent. While it’s certainly too high for the Bulls that doesn’t mean it’s too steep for other teams. This is the NBA where average players still get a lot of money. So there’s 100% a team out there that will pay Markkanen what he wants. If it weren’t for Artūras Karnišovas’ comments about Lauri I would be sure that he was gone.
Bulls executive VP of basketball ops Arturas Karnisovas: "I think Lauri’s an essential part of our team, and we hope he is part of what we’re building here.”
— Darnell Mayberry (@DarnellMayberry) May 17, 2021
While this certainly doesn’t set anything in stone it does show that AK seems to have faith in Markkanen as a player. Maybe this was just something he said to make him feel good about the Bulls and take less money. At this time we are unsure. However, the only way Markkanen is staying with this team is if he is taking less money. I would take Markkanen as a role player coming off the bench at the right price. It appears that Markkanen doesn’t seem himself in that light. That makes me believe that he will look to go elsewhere and won’t take a discount.
This Bulls front office is crafty and smart. I think if they can make a sign and trade happen they will. If the right team is interested and the Bulls are trying to grab a key piece for the team they absolutely will execute a sign and trade. Since we aren’t into the offseason for every team yet it’s hard to know who has interest and who doesn’t. There are a lot of teams out there with good cap space that could pay Markkanen what he wants. I can say with 100% certainty that if Markkanen gets an offer sheet around $18-$20 million per year the Bulls will not be matching it. If the option for a sign and trade is there I bet the Bulls make it happen. If that’s not the case then Markkanen will simply walk and the Bulls will move on.