Chicago Bulls: 3 areas where Lauri Markkanen needs to improve the most

Lauri Markkanen, Chicago Bulls (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
Lauri Markkanen, Chicago Bulls (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images) /
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Lauri Markkanen, Chicago Bulls
Lauri Markkanen, Chicago Bulls (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images) /

1. Become less of a liability on defense

Off-ball defense is something that younger big men that are still trying to find their way in the NBA, like Markkanen, can struggle with out of the gates. This is something that he never really excelled at. His defensive box plus/minus rating is improving, (around 0.4 percent per season), but he is still in the negatives. His defensive rating also has yet to get below 110.

Opposing shooters do love to have Markkanen defending them, especially from two-point range.

With Markkanen as a defender last season, opposing players hit their field goal attempts overall at a clip that was 3.3 percent better than their usual average. Markkanen can really struggle to defend players within the two-point arc too.

Markkanen can get stuck in the middle of nowhere in the aggressive blitzing style scheme that Boylen likes to run on defense. From within the three-point line, opposing players shot four percent better from the field than usual when Markkanen was defending them.

A good move for the coaching staff, whoever that be, next season would be to have Markkanen defending the three or the four more often. Let him run alongside Carter Jr. and/or Gafford in the lineup so that his ability to use his length to disrupt opposing shooters from outside six-feet from the rim. He allowed a three-point shooting percentage of just 31.8 last season when defending guards, and still around 35.0 percent when guarding forwards.

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Markkanen still ranked outside the top 60 power forwards in the NBA last season in defensive real plus-minus rating (per ESPN). And he slotted well outside of the top 200 players in the NBA last season in overall defensive wins above replacement (per 538’s RAPTOR). Improving rebounding percentages will be an important step (as he had a career low rebounding rate around 11.0 percent last season), and correcting his matchup placement could have a huge impact on Markkanen’s defensive efficiency moving forward.