The Bulls "Might Be Willing" to Trade Lauri Markkanen at the Deadline

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The Bulls “Might Be Willing” to Trade Lauri Markkanen at the Deadline

Chicago Bulls

Lauri Markkanen looks confident again.

The 23-year-old big man is averaging 18.7 points (tied with his career-high) and 6.0 rebounds per game. And he’s ramped up his aggression on the offensive end of the court, shooting 50.4 percent from the field and 40.8 percent from downtown. Those marks have been good enough to land him a career-high 62.3 effective field goal percentage, which ranks in the 79th percentile, per Cleaning the Glass. But are they good enough to keep him in Chicago long-term? Or will the upcoming trade deadline be the end of the road?

According to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst, the Bulls may just be open to a deal.

The Chicago Bulls have drawn interest in versatile forward Thaddeus Young, sources said. But the Bulls, like the Kings, are on the playoff bubble and aren’t anxious to be sellers even though they’re under .500. They might be willing to make a deal involving another power forward, free-agent-to-be Lauri Markkanen, but Young will likely be staying in Chicago.

Now, let’s back up.

All we wanted to see from Markkanen this season was improvement over a disastrous 2019-20 campaign. However, now that we’re under a week away from the trade deadline, I have to wonder whether or not the Bulls new front office believes the improvement we’ve seen has been enough. Markkanen is headed toward restricted free agency this offseason, which means the Bulls will either have to pay him or let him walk (and the financial commitment is not going to be cheap). All things considered, there is little doubt that plenty of teams will have significant money to spend (and an interest in Markkanen) now that market that has been ripped of its once-voluminous level of superstar talent.

A 23-year-old, high-upside, seven-foot, mobile power forward? Yeah, I’ll pay for that!” – Definitely Some Front Office This Offseason

So if Arturas Karnisovas and Marc Eversley are not sure how Markkanen fits with their vision and thus not comfortable paying him big money, getting something in return for him in a trade deadline move would make sense.

Even still, this is the first we’ve heard someone as in-touch with the league as Windhorst mention a Markkanen trade. No, he didn’t tie it to sources like he did the interest in Thaddeus Young, but the fact he mentions it at all could suggest it’s a topic of conversation around the league as the deadline nears.

What I’m left wondering is what the front office would want in return. Keeping Young still demonstrates a desire to push for the playoffs, so I’m assuming they would look for a younger piece that could make an immediate impact as a starter. The alternative would be focusing on draft compensation, which I guess they could be more comfortable pursuing after they saw how well this team played in Markkanen’s 13-game absence (8-5).

While it’s not hard to understand why a trade could happen, I’d still be pretty damn shocked if it did. All Karnisovas has done since joining the organization is speak favorable of the big man. At his pre-All-Star break press conference, he said he couldn’t wait to get Markkanen back on the floor (at the time he was injured) to “help this team win games.” And even though an extension didn’t ultimately get signed this offseason, Karnisovas said he wanted Markkanen in Chicago for the long-haul. The feeling appears to be mutual, according to NBC Sports Chicago’s K.C. Johnson.

Fortunately, we don’t have to wait very long to see if this Windhorst mention carries a lot of weight. Tough decisions are only six days away.

For more on the Markkanen conundrum, check this out:


Author: Elias Schuster

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