Lauri Markkanen’s time in Chicago could very well come to an end this offseason, and it appears he is okay with that.
The Bulls’ 2017 first-round draft pick gave an exclusive interview with NBC Sports Chicago’s K.C. Johnson on Monday, explaining that he looks forward to seeing how the market plays out this summer.
“My thing is I think I’ve always been a team-first guy. And I think now it’s time to look at the business side of the game. I feel like I’m only 23 years old and I have a lot of basketball ahead of me. It’s a good opportunity to look what’s out there for me. I can be a focal point. I think I have a lot more to offer.”
The Bulls moved Markkanen to the bench in the second game after the trade deadline. His fit alongside Nikola Vucevic as a weaker floor-spacing offensive-minded big man was clearly flawed. Not to mention, the acquisition of Daniel Theis – a more aggressive and defensively savvy big man – blurred the line for how useful Markkanen could be.
Markkanen told reporters on May 3rd that he still believed he was “a starter in this league.” The organization or coaching staff never directly said a starting opportunity would be permanently taken away from Markkanen, but the devotion to Vucevic and the poor fit might as well suggest that. The presence of guys like Zach LaVine and Patrick Williams also seems to take away from Markkanen’s ability to be a “focal point,” which is something he clearly seems to believe he can become in a different destination.
And, heck, Markkanen is probably right. I do think there are organizations that would feel comfortable taking a chance on a 23-year-old former lottery pick. His contract offer may not be the size he wants (especially after averaging career lows in points, rebounds, and assists), but the role he’s offered could be far more significant. For example, the San Antonio Spurs have already been rumored as a landing spot for Markkanen, and that is an organization currently in the process of rebuilding its roster around young pieces.
These comments from Markkanen come only a couple of hours after Karnisovas labeled him as “an essential part of the organization.” Everything about that comment felt like typical “executive speak,” and I think Markkanen’s clear willingness to play elsewhere in 2021-22 only confirms that.
Read more of Markkanen had to say in Johnson’s article below:
Lauri Markkanen is team-first. He will be again next season, wherever he’s playing.
But in an interview with @NBCSChicago, Markkanen made clear his plan for RFA: “It’s a good opportunity to look what’s out there. I can be a focal point.”
— K.C. Johnson (@KCJHoop) May 17, 2021
And here is some more on Karnisovas’ comments …
Arturas Karnisovas Calls Markkanen “Essential,” Buuuut Actions Speak Louder Than Wordshttps://t.co/xGrVdHFAbF
— Bleacher Nation Bulls (@BN_Bulls) May 17, 2021