It's Time to Tamper(!), LaVine's Loyalty, Markkanen's Return and Other Bulls Bullets

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It’s Time to Tamper(!), LaVine’s Loyalty, Markkanen’s Return and Other Bulls Bullets

Chicago Bulls


•   For the first time since the 2016-17 season, the Chicago Bulls will be represented during the All-Star Game. LaVine will play for Team Durant alongside guys like Joel Embiid, Kawhi Leonard, and James Harden. In other words, he better bring his A-game … off the court *smug emoji.* That’s right, it’s time to tamper, folks. After missing out on the Orlando Bubble, this is the Chicago Bulls first real opportunity to plant seeds in the minds of elite talent. No, I don’t actually think LaVine is going to convince Kawhi Leonard to come to the Windy City this offseason, but there is something to be said about the importance of building these relationships.

•   The more often a franchise can have a representative in the mix, the better their infrastructure looks and the more that player can talk-up the direction of their franchise. Especially for the Bulls, this feels like a tremendous time to have an All-Star back in the mix. With a new front office, a new head coach, and a little bit more winning, it feels like there is actually something their for LaVine to sell. Again, is this ultimately going to convince a top-talent to come to Chicago? Probably not, but the players LaVine will be around have some of the loudest voices and greatest influence in the league. If they happen to find themselves in a conversation with their teammates about the improved path the Bulls are on, that can make a significant difference.

•   On the flip side, we can always be concerned that a player or two gets in LaVine’s ear. He is set to hit unrestricted free agency after next season, and while I imagine the Bulls plan to offer him a max contract right now, who is to say another team will not present a far more intiruging future? It’s certainly something to think about (STAY AWAY FROM HIM LEBRON!), but I also do think LaVine is genuinely invested in returning this team to a truly competitive level. He has represented the organization pridefully in truly terrible circumstances (*points to last year’s All-Star Weekend embarrassment in Chicago*), and he continually talks about how much he loves to play for this franchise. I mean, this quote from his interview on All the Smoke was awesome: “I just want to do my part to try to get the Bulls back on the map and get them back to that championship era, because Chicago sports is big, man. They really root for you, they go after you, and I accepted that challenge and I still do. It’s exciting. I’m very humbled to wear Chicago across my chest.”

•   At the end of the day, LaVine is a loyal dude, and that is something that has apparently stood out about him since his AAU days. NBC Sports Chicago’s K.C. Johnson wrote a great piece about all of that, and I recommend you give it a read.

•   We may have a sample size (14 games), but Lauri Markkanen has looked pretty dang good. The upcoming restricted free agent has averaged 19.1 points on 51.4 percent shooting from the field and 39.6 percent shooting from downtown so far this season. He has been noticeably more aggressive on the offensive end too and it has done wonders early-on for his efficiency. Before his injury, he was posting a 62.8 effective field goal percentage and converting 78 percent of his shots at the rim – both are career-highs. The question now is whether or not he can keep this up after the All-Star break? And, if not, how would that influence the front office’s decision-making?

•   I don’t think Markkanen will be traded, but I also can’t help but wonder how open the organization is to the idea as the deadline looms. Patrick Williams has looked better at the four, and we do have to weigh how much Markkanen’s next contract is worth. I just think that – while the organization likes the progress they have seen from Makkkanen over 14 games – that they will still weigh quite a bit on Markkanen’s play before the deadline.

•   Stupid good.

•   The Bulls have one of the most respected players in the league on their roster, and that could be why there is some hesitation to trade him in an easy deal.

•   My heart.

Author: Elias Schuster

Elias Schuster is the Lead Bulls Writer at Bleacher Nation. You can follow him on Twitter @Schuster_Elias.