The Chicago Bulls have been noticeably unhappy for the past several years. There was the reported mutiny against head coach Jim Boylen that took place in 2018. Denzel Valentine did everything short of demanding a trade ahead of this season’s trade deadline in an interview with Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times. And now, another Bulls player is reportedly upset, and it’s a much more important one. Lauri Markkanen would rather play elsewhere if Chicago’s organizational direction doesn’t change, according to Cowley.
Markkanen’s role in the offense appears to be the main stressor in his relationship with the Bulls. In his third season, Markkanen is taking a career-low 11.8 shots per game. More than half of those shots have been 3-pointers as the Bulls have pushed a more analytically-inclined shot profile. Only 4.1 percent of his attempts have been 2-pointers beyond 10 feet of the basket, a shift supported by the math, but potentially grating to a scorer who took 17.9 percent of his shots in that range last season.
Fortunately for Markkanen, Chicago is in the process of changing directions. Owner Michael Reinsdorf is searching for replacements for both vice president of basketball operations Jim Paxson and general manager Gar Forman, and while he would reportedly like his new top decision-maker to keep an open mind about retaining Boylen, that is not an ultimatum.
Trying to make it work with a new front office would be in Markkanen’s best interests. He will be eligible for a contract extension after this season, but is still a ways away from unrestricted free agency. To get there, he would need to decline an extension offer from the Bulls, make it through the 2020-21 season unscathed, accept a one-year, $9 million qualifying offer from the Bulls for the 2021-22 season and then play out that campaign with no long-term guarantees before finally hitting the open market. In an uncertain cap environment, Markkanen would be taking an enormous risk by passing up a market-value extension if one is offered.
Markkanen averaged 18.7 points per game in his second season. His combination of size and shooting ability is rare even in an increasingly skilled NBA. The Bulls unwisely limited him this season. His development should be a priority for the new front office, both in terms of building a successful roster and attempting to salvage their relationship with one of the better young players in basketball.
Courtesy: CBS Sports