Chicago Bulls: Lauri Markkanen extension will be ‘tough negotiation’

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

The rebuilding Chicago Bulls have a really important looming contract decision to make in the near future with power forward Lauri Markkanen.

One of the biggest looming storylines for this offseason in the Chicago Bulls camp involves what will happen with the to-be fourth-year former Arizona Wildcats power forward Lauri Markkanen entering the final year of his rookie contract. Even though he had a down season in his third year in the NBA, Markkanen could still be worth a decent negotiation this offseason. That does all depend on the price tag he’s commanding, though.

The former seventh overall pick of the Minnesota Timberwolves (traded to the Bulls in the Jimmy Butler deal) in the 2017 NBA Draft is due to make around $6.7 million next season. And he would be set to hit the restricted free agency market if the Bulls new front office weren’t to do anything about it before then.

This decision is to be left in the hands of the former Denver Nuggets general manager Arturas Karnisovas. He will be replacing the Bulls former vice president of basketball operations John Paxson as the new lead voice in the front office. And Karnisovas is joined by the former Philadelphia 76ers vice president of player personnel Marc Eversley, who will replace Gar Forman as the next general manager in the Windy City.

However, there is a valid point to be made that Markkanen didn’t earn his keep last season. When he was expected to make that big leap to vault his NBA career, he posted a number of career lows in advanced metrics and per game stats.

In the season that was for Markkanen, he played in 50 games (starting in every single one of them). He averaged 14.7 points per game, 6.3 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 0.8 steals, and 0.5 blocks. Markkanen shot 42.5 percent from the field, 34.4 percent from beyond the arc, and 82.4 percent from the free-throw line. That amounted to a 51.7 effective field goal percentage, and 56.0 true shooting percentage.

It seems like most of the lead voices in the front office aren’t sold quite yet on what Markkanen brings to the table over the long haul. According to a report from K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago (in his mailbag) on June 25, the potential extension talks with Markkanen in the near future could be a “tough negotiation”.

Here’s more on what that piece had to say on the matter.

"This is a tough one to predict. I wouldn’t say Markkanen’s value is at an all-time low because he’s still valued around the league, albeit with reservations. But, yes, coming off a season where his production dropped, his injury history continued and his usage mystified, this will be a tough negotiation.If you’re the Bulls, you obviously try to negotiate from a hard-line stance to keep the books as clean as possible without alienating his camp. Luckily, Karnisovas and Markkanen’s agent have a strong relationship, but that doesn’t guarantee anything except cordiality during negotiations. And Markkanen remains under the Bulls’ rights as a restricted free agent in 2021 if no extension is reached, albeit one with roughly a $20 million cap hold."

This will be an ongoing discussion for the Bulls management that should carry on into the 2020-21 season. If there is a good enough deal that they can make with Markkanen during the current offseason, then it might be worth pulling the trigger on an extension.

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The Bulls have a few other impending contract decisions to make heading into the summer months. But they should have a front office that is much better armed to make these decisions with the likes of point guard Kris Dunn and shooting guard Denzel Valentine.