Chicago Bulls: Lauri Markkanen is the key to making the core work

CHICAGO, IL - JANUARY 26: Lauri Markkanen
CHICAGO, IL - JANUARY 26: Lauri Markkanen /

How do the Chicago Bulls manage to make all of the new pieces fit and create an opportunity to compete in the playoffs? It all starts with Lauri Markkanen.

Two of the most important offseason moves for the Chicago Bulls were picking up Jabari Parker in free agency and drafting Wendell Carter Jr. with the 7th overall pick in the NBA draft. Seeing how the Bulls performed last year, it was obvious something new had to be done. Making all of the pieces fit together will be the hard part.

After matching the four-year, $78 million offer sheet to retain Zach LaVine and signing Jabari Parker to a two-year deal worth $40 million to play with Lauri Markkanen, the Bulls now have three players in the starting lineup with excellent offensive skills and outstanding potential.

However, there will be an adjustment process and they don’t have much time to figure it out.

The Bulls have a team option on Jabari Parker for the 2019-2020 season and the front office has been under more pressure than a quarterback facing a blitz.

If recent history is any indication, the Bulls need one guy in the lineup to step up and be the unquestionable go-to guy. That means there’s room for one more player to also be a great secondary option, but someone will have to take a step back.

Zach LaVine and Jabari Parker are notably isolation scorers that need the ball a lot. However, Lauri Markkanen is a versatile player that can play off the ball and still score with high efficiency.

Lauri Markkanen is the centerpiece

Even with Markkanen being a great low-maintenance player, after his performance last season, the Bulls definitely want to see him taking more shots.

In order to compete in the Eastern Conference, there needs to be a plan to get the ball to all of the weapons on the Bulls offense. Talent alone isn’t enough to get the Bulls to the playoffs. Teams like the Warriors are dominant because of how well their talent works together and how players buy into their system.

All of the Chicago Bulls’ stars will have to share the basketball and buy into their system.

This may require LaVine and Parker to make some slight changes to their gameplay but they should still be able to focus on their strengths.

Neither LaVine nor Parker have ever been much of a defender. LaVine either rests or gambles and Parker admitted on the Bernstein and Mcknight Show on 670 The Score, “They do not pay players for defense.” So you can tell how he feels about defense.

Markkanen, on the other hand, may be one of the most underestimated and versatile defenders for his size.

As far as offense goes, Lauri Markkanen had to lead the Bulls after the Nikola Mirotic trade and while Zach LaVine was out with an injury. Markkanen isn’t exactly a one-man offense, though.

Unlike LaVine and Parker, Markkanen also doesn’t have any defined weaknesses. He can pass, shoot, rebound, and defend at a decent level.

Markkanen may subtly be a standout player by providing value in other ways than putting the ball in the basket. His development is very crucial if the Bulls expect him to be the face of the franchise, but this is not a position he will forcibly take. He will grow into it over time.

Each facet of Markkanen’s game makes him a unique player which is why he should have a breakout year and why he is the key to the Chicago Bulls’ season.

Fred Hoiberg has to handle the relationship and development of his starting core carefully. This is no longer a league where great players are spread out across the league. Stars who can play well with other stars are the new wave.

Next. Chicago Bulls' 15 greatest scorers in franchise history. dark

If the core doesn’t mesh well or if one of the players doesn’t like their situation in Chicago, it will be hard to produce wins.