In the midst of free agency and the NBA Draft, it’s easy to forget that one of the Bulls most important decisions revolves around a player already on the roster.
Fourth-year big man Lauri Markkanen is up for a rookie-scale extension this offseason, and while it felt like a foregone conclusion that the previous front office would lock him down long-term, we can’t necessarily say the same with Arturas Karnisovas at the helm. Not only is the current Bulls roster filled with talent that the new front office didn’t handpick, but Markkanen is also coming off a career-worst season.
The Finnisher averaged a concerning 14.7 points and 6.3 rebounds in 2019-20, just one season after averaging 18.7 points and 9.0 rebounds per game. His field goal attempt, shooting numbers, and defensive rating all took a hit as well. A simple re-watch of Markkanen’s film from last season reveals a player who had every last ounce of confidence wrung out of him. There is no question that his extension value took a hit, so much so that I don’t think anyone would be shocked to see the front office pass on sending him an offer.
Now, with that said, one of the first things we learned about General Manager Marc Eversley is that he saw plenty of value in Markkanen. The Bulls No. 2 in command told reporters in his introductory press conference that he would “love” to learn about what sent Markkanen backward. The decision to invest too heavily in the player development department this offseason could very well be with someone like Markkanen in mind. If that is the case, then perhaps the Bulls do have an interest in striking a deal with Markkanen, especially if they believe they can lock him in on a value deal.
The chances of the new front office coming in rather low on an extension offer after Markkanen’s last season is pretty likely. The chances of Markkanen then betting on himself this season is also pretty likely. However, there is also always a chance that Markkanen values security, which would then make him more inclined to get a deal done. John Hollinger recently threw around some projected extension numbers over at The Athletic, and he put Markkanen on a four-year deal that nets roughly over $80 million. In the past, I’ve suggested a contract that is more similar to that of Pacers big-man Domantas Sabonis, who signed a four-year $77 million deal last offseason. Sabonis may have already shown us that he will outplay that deal after he made his first All-Star game this season. Still, if the Bulls were to offer that deal, they would be clearly expressing that they have high hopes for the 23-year-old.
Anyway, where exactly the two sides will land at this point in time is hard to say. Perhaps some further evaluation of him in training camp and the preseason will give the front office a better idea of what they want to do. All we know for sure right now is that the Bulls have until December 21st – one day before the start of the season – to reach a decision.
Last day for a player to sign a super max and rookie extension is Dec. 21.
— Bobby Marks (@BobbyMarks42) November 15, 2020