Despite adding Lonzo Ball, Alex Caruso, and DeMar DeRozan, one of the most surprising things for the Bulls this offseason is that Lauri Markkanen remains on the roster three days into free agency.
All signs pointed to a split between the two this summer, and while that still feels on the table, it has taken longer than expected for the 23-year-old big man to find a new home.
The San Antonio Spurs were said to have a strong interest in Markkanen earlier this season. And that interest did spark negotiations this week as the Bulls looked to make a sign-and-trade work for four-time All-Star DeMar DeRozan. However, the final deal ultimately did not include Markkanen, and we now know why thanks Brian Windhorst on The Hoops Collective Podcast:
“The Spurs had interest in Lauri Markkanen. They have had interest in Lauri Markkanen for a long time. He fits the profile of the kind of player they like – international player, shooter, still in development but they can develop him. But, from what I understand, Markkanen just wanted so much money that the Spurs were like ‘we can’t pay that.'”
For what it’s worth, The New York Post’s Kristian Winfield heard the same thing:
Lauri Markkanen and Kelly Oubre Jr asked for too much money in free agency without the resume to back it up, a league source just told me. The market has cooled significantly on both with most teams out of money.
Mavs ($15M) & Hornets ($14.5M) among teams w cap space.
— Kristian Winfield (@Krisplashed) August 4, 2021
Windhorst went on to note that the Spurs signed Zach Collins and Doug McDermott, two players who can offer a mix of size and shooting. The franchise still remained interested in Markkanen, but the former lottery pick simply set his price too high. Thus, the Bulls found themselves sending Thaddeus Young, Al-Farouq Aminu, and multiple picks to San Antonio to make the deal work.
While I commend Markkanen for standing up for his self-worth, he is likely hurting himself in a shrinking market. If a team that was long interested in his services did not want to meet his monetary demands, it is hard to imagine another franchise will on the third day (and counting) of free agency. At some point, the market determines your values, and that seems to be exactly what is happening for the seven-foot sharpshooter.
Spotrac’s Keith Smith tweeted out a quote from an agent that is quite telling, and I think Markkanen might want to read it:
Talked with an agent this morning and he said "Everyone knows money has dried up, but roster spots are starting to dry up too. It's not quite 'Take what you can get' time, but we're getting closer."
— Keith Smith (@KeithSmithNBA) August 4, 2021
Again, it’s totally possible Markkanen still ends up on a decent deal, but I have to imagine it will not be anywhere near his current asking price. If anything, we could be reaching a world where Markkanen has to accept the Bulls’ $9 million qualifying offer. The decision would make him an unrestricted free agent in 2022, but it would come after a season where he likely played his most minor role yet.
If one thing is for sure, it appears Arturas Karnisovas and Marc Eversley evaluated Markkanen properly. They failed to reach an extension last season because, in Markkanen’s opinion, they came in with a low-ball offer. I can’t help but wonder what he thinks of that offer now.