The Dallas Mavericks have long been a speculative landing spot for Bulls big man Lauri Markkanen. And, indeed, earlier in the offseason, we even had a fond time imagining a potential sign-and-trade deal that would net the team 24-year-old Jalen Brunson. However, when the Bulls went on to sign Lonzo Ball and Alex Caruso, any thought of landing Brunson fizzled, and the ties to Markkanen followed.
However, last week Marc Stein added some new logs to the fire with a report that the Dallas Mavericks did have a legitimate interest in acquiring the Bulls big man. And The Athletic’s Tim Cato has today confirmed that interest, stating that the organization would love to convince Markkanen to sign a contract that fits under their $11 million trade exception. Whether or not they can do that, however, is up for extreme debate.
Markkanen has appeared picky about his next contract, and the option to accept a $9 million qualifying offer to hit unrestricted free agency next offseason is still on the table.
At the same time, if Markkanen truly wants a fresh start, he could do worse than accepting a role in Dallas. And Cato did throw out a way for the team to hand Markkanen a more sizable deal if they chose to move off one of their current role players.
Dallas could offer Markkanen, say, a three-year deal worth $44 million and send back about $10 million in offsetting salary in a direct trade not involving its TPE. I’ve heard Chicago has interest in Kleber; it’s a riskier deal for Dallas giving up both a rotational player and signing Markkanen to a higher salary point … Would you trade him and Trey Burke for Markkanen at that price point?
Swapping Kleber for Markkanen would likely be something the Bulls do in a heartbeat. The big man would immediately be able to fill rotational minutes at the power forward position, and he would also fill the three-point shooting gap left by Markkanen’s departure. The big man averaged a career-high 41.0 percent from downtown last season on 4.2 attempts per game over his 50 games played. He also hauled in 5.2 rebounds per game and averaged 7.1 points a night. Kleber is set to make $8.7 million this season with a non-guaranteed deal worth $9 million in 2022-23.
There are similarities between Markkanen and Kleber, but Dallas’ big man has two seasons of playoff experience under his belt. Not to mention, he has been far more durable over his career. While an Achilles injury played a role in holding him to just 50 games last season, he played at least 71 games in each of his three seasons prior. Likewise, Kleber may not be an elite defender, but he has proven more reliable on this side of the court than Markkanen.
With all of that in mind, there is no question that Dallas would have to think twice about pulling the trigger on such a deal. The Mavericks front office would have to be very bought into Markkanen’s potential, and that is likely why Cato still put the chance of the Mavericks making a move for Markkanen at just “30 or 40 percent.”
Hey, it’s not zero, and Markkanen has to end up somewhere!