If it didn’t feel like Trade Deadline Week before, it sure does now.
According to The Athletic’s Shams Charania, the Chicago Bulls are hearing out offers on big man Lauri Markkanen:
Teams have expressed interest in Bulls forward Lauri Markkanen, and Chicago is listening to potential suitors, sources said. Markkanen has had a bounce-back season for the Bulls, averaging 17.7 points and six rebounds per game while shooting nearly 40 percent from 3-point land. Markkanen will be a sought-after restricted free agent this offseason.
It’s only been a matter of time before this chatter picked up, which doesn’t mean a deal will get done. But it was always coming, and with just two days to go before the Trade Deadline, it feels very notable.
To be sure, this doesn’t insinuate that the Bulls are the ones making calls, by the way, which is an important distinction. While clearly picking up the phone demonstrates a willingness to part ways with the 23-year-old, actively shopping him would signal an even greater urge to move on. With that being said, this isn’t the first time we’ve heard about the Bulls’ willingness to speak with suitors, as ESPN’s Brian Windhorst claimed the team “might be willing” to deal him at the deadline.
From the moment Markkanen failed to sign an extension with the organization, a deadline trade has been on the table. NBC Sports Chicago’s K.C. Johnson was the first to report that the two sides were roughly $4 million apart in the first year of their contract negotiations alone. Obviously, that news told Bulls fans that Arturas Karnisovas and Marc Eversley viewed Markkanen’s current long-term value to be far less than what The Finnisher had hoped, and thus this season would be his opportunity to prove them otherwise. However, despite a significant uptick on the offensive end (averaging career-high eFG%), Markkanen has played just 22 games this season and has struggled to make his presence felt in other areas of the court. He is also coming off arguably his worst game of the season on Monday night against Utah, where he scored just 8 points (3-12 FG) in 19 minutes of action.
The organization has done nothing but say the right things about Lauri Markkanen’s future in Chicago up until this point. In the offseason, Karnisovas told reporters that he was “making every effort” to get an extension done, and head coach Billy Donovan made sure to say that they believed Markkanen was, “an important part of our team moving forward.” Maybe that was all true, but, even if it was, things change. Perhaps both were expecting/hoping to take a greater leap over the first half of this season.
Anyway, so this is where things getting interesting. We have no idea what the market is for Markkanen at this time, but I have to imagine it’s rather fruitful, especially if the organization is motivated to trade him now because they expect a bidding war for him in the coming months. We know the Bulls are interested in Lonzo Ball, and Johnson shared that there have been rumors of a potential swap of the two restricted free agents over the course of the season. However, Markkanen is a bit of an odd fit in New Orleans with the frontcourt duo of Zion Williamson and Steven Adams already in-house.
From earlier this week: Talk of a Lauri-for-Lonzo swap has been circulating throughout the league ever since both teams failed to hit on rookie extensions for both. Markkanen's fit in NO is a question mark, as is fact both teams would ask for a lot: https://t.co/injuA3S5el
— K.C. Johnson (@KCJHoop) March 23, 2021
So I guess we’ll see what pops up! Charania’s report does allude to multiple suitors, which means more detail could surface in the coming hours/days. Stay tuned! Trade Deadline Week!