Chicago Bulls: Grading Lauri Markkanen’s 2018-19 season

(Photo by Chris Schwegler/NBAE via Getty Images)
(Photo by Chris Schwegler/NBAE via Getty Images) /

Lauri Markkanen’s 2018-19 season is officially over. Let’s go through and grade the Finnisher’s captivating sophomore season.

Along with the rest of the Chicago Bulls, Lauri Markkanen headed into the 2018-19 season with high expectations surrounded by tons of question marks. The biggest question with Markkanen: Would he develop into a go-to guy or regress to simply a spot-up shooter?

Sophomore seasons are often fairly telling for lottery picks. We’ve seen two great examples of that this year in Jayson Tatum and De’Aaron Fox.

After Tatum’s rookie season with the Celtics, he had arguably the highest trade value in the league. He looked like a future MVP candidate. This season, though, Tatum’s regressed in a major way. He still shows flashes of brilliance every once in a while, but he doesn’t get to the free throw line nearly enough, he takes too many mid-range jumpers and he often disappears for large stretches. Obviously, Tatum is still an impressive young player with a high ceiling, but there are reasons to be concerned.

Fox, on the other hand, has had a magnificent sophomore season. He’s turned himself into one of the best young guards in the league and almost led the Kings to their first playoff berth since 2006. After an iffy rookie season, Fox’s value shot up drastically during his sophomore year.

Lauri Markkanen’s sophomore season more closely aligns with Fox’s. Obviously, the Bulls didn’t find the same team success that the Kings found, but Markkanen was a bright spot for Chicago in the midst of all the losing.

This season, Lauri averaged 18.7 points per game on 43% shooting from the field and 36.1% shooting from 3-point land to go along with nine rebounds and 1.4 assists.

Markkanen had some hot and cold streaks throughout the season, but the hottest of hot streaks came in the month of February when Markkanen averaged 26 points, 12.2 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game. That wasn’t sustainable for the entire season, but for a 21-year-old kid to put up those numbers for a whole month is extremely impressive.

After a tough start to the 2018-19 season, Bulls fans knew development was key for the remainder of the season. Markkanen showed just that. He improved in nearly every facet of his game over the course of the year. He even developed a signature move that’s nearly impossible to guard: the drag-step floater.


If NBA front offices knew Lauri would have this move in his bag before turning 22, he might have been the first overall pick in the 2017 draft. At the very least, he would’ve been taken in the top three – not seventh.

Another crazy (but awesome) part of that play is after Robin Lopez gets the rebound, he’s looking for an outlet and Markkanen is actually a good option. How often is a 7-footer a good option for an outlet pass?

When Chicago traded for him on draft night in 2017, bringing the ball up the floor didn’t seem like it would be a part of his game within two seasons. Now, it’s one of the things he does best. He’s a nightmare in transition.


Single-handedly beating four Celtics with a fancy finish in transition shouldn’t be something that a young 7-footer does. But Lauri did it – and he made it look easy.

Let’s bring this back to the original question that Bulls fans had coming into this season: Would Lauri develop into a go-to scorer or regress to a spot-up shooter? Despite only playing in 52 games, Bulls fans got their answer.

Lauri is absolutely a go-to guy. There’s no question about it.

Grade: B+