The “Lauri Markkanen: Chip on His Shoulder” tour starts tonight.
On Monday, Markkanen and the Chicago Bulls failed to agree on terms for a contract extension before the deadline. In so doing, the Bulls effectively told the 2017 first-round draft pick that it’s time to start playing like one of the better young big men in the leagues, if he wants to get paid like one.
Unsurprisingly, reports surfaced over the past couple of days that the Bulls were very far apart in their contract negotiations with Markkanen’s camp. My best guess is that Markkanen was willing to taking something in the range of $17-18 million a year, which would give him a contract between $68-72 million over four seasons. The reason I think that’s where he wanted to land is because of the recent contracts we’ve seen for stretch-fours like Domantas Sabonis (four-year, $77 million) and Davis Bertans (five-year, $80 million). The fact is that bigs who can shoot from deep are a hot commodity in today’s league, and I can’t blame Markkanen for recognizing that and trying to grab his bag.
The problem for him is that his shooting stroke has not looked quite as crisp over the past couple of years. And unlike Sabonis or Bertans, he was trying to grab his money after a career-worst season. With that being the case, it is not at all surprising that the Bulls kept their distance from what Markkanen wanted.
And now, thanks to NBC Sports Chicago’s K.C. Johnson, we know a little more about how far apart the two really were on a deal.
“Previously in this feature, I predicted the two sides would reach agreement. I based this not only on Markkanen’s strong desire to get a deal done but also Artūras Karnišovas’ uncharacteristic public acknowledgement of the same.
But once it got down to negotiating, it was clear it wasn’t going to happen. Even after proposal exchanges, the two sides were roughly $4 million apart for the starting salary figure in the first year of a multi-year deal, sources said.”
I know that number may not sound like a lot, but think about it as this front office paying Markkanen upward of $16 million more than they wanted. Yeah … that’s a lot.
Again, both sides had their reasons for not caving on a deal. The Bulls new front office did not want to risk one of their first significant contracts potentially be a bust, which could certainly be the case right now with an unproven, often injured player. And Markkanen wanted to get the most money while showing that he believed in his own future. He touched on these differences of opinions vaguely yesterday in a conversation with reporters, also emphasizing that he remains committed to this organization no matter the case.
Anyway, I guess that’s that. I’m sure the two sides ended things in good faith, and now they have an entire season to try to figure out what the future holds. And, hopefully, that future involves an All-Star Markkanen, a new contract, and a happy Bulls front office.