Chicago Bulls: Lauri Markkanen shouldn’t be considered ‘untouchable’

Lauri Markkanen, Chicago Bulls Mandatory Credit: John Geliebter-USA TODAY Sports
Lauri Markkanen, Chicago Bulls Mandatory Credit: John Geliebter-USA TODAY Sports /

More decisions to be had for the Chicago Bulls in the looming debate of whether they should make a draft night trade to move up in the lottery.

It sounds like a lot of potential draft night trade discussions are starting to play out around the NBA landscape at the moment. We are now eight days away from when the Chicago Bulls will officially decide what they will do with the fourth overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft Lottery. The Bulls had originally caught a nice stroke of luck to land the fourth pick in this draft, jumping up three spots in the lottery odds order.

But now it’s closing in on decision time for recently hired executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas and general manager Marc Eversley. Is it the right move for them to trade up and secure a true potential star (or at least quality starter) in the lottery?

If they do want to trade up, it could take parting ways with a key piece of the young core to do so. And there was a recent discussion that played out on “The Lowe Post Podcast” with Zach Lowe and Jonathan Givony earlier this week concerning which key pieces of the young core the Bulls might be willing to part ways with.

Givony mentioned that the Bulls sound like they’re willing to part ways with center Wendell Carter Jr. before they would be with power forward Lauri Markkanen. That is interesting since Carter Jr. still has two years left on his rookie contract, and some would argue he had a much better 2019-20 campaign. Meanwhile, Markkanen had the worst season of his career to date during the 2019-20 campaign and he’s about to enter the final year of his rookie contract.

So this discussion begs the question should the Bulls consider a piece of the young core like Markkanen to be “untouchable”?

Markkanen does still have a lot of value that he brings to the table. When healthy and in rhythm, Markkanen showed he can be one of the more versatile seven-footers and overall scorers at his position in the Eastern Conference. His best season to date in the NBA was 2018-19. He averaged 18.7 points per game, 9.0 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 0.7 steals, and 0.6 blocks. And he shot 43 percent from the field and around 36 percent from beyond the arc.

A lot of Bulls fans feel that a head coach like the former Oklahoma City Thunder bench boss Billy Donovan could make the difference that Markkanen needs to get back to that level of production. Donovan helped to improve the overall offensive game and efficiency of bigs and forwards like Steven Adams, Markieff Morris, Terrance Ferguson, and Danilo Gallinari in the past. It’s not out of the question that he could do much of the same with Markkanen.

The nagging problem with Markkanen will always be the spotty injury history. Markkanen has yet to make it through a full season without some injury problem bothering him. Last season was the healthiest he’s been in his career to date, but he still missed 15 out of 65 regular season games. He’s never played less than 50 regular season games, but he’s also never missed less than 14. That’s a problem for his longevity given how seven footers like him can get injured so frequently.

No guarantee exists that he will bounce back from a down 2019-20 campaign either. Last season was supposed to be where Markkanen finally took that leap to stardom (or at least among the better power forwards in the East). Exactly the opposite happened.

To top it all off, the Bulls do have a plethora of other options that might be less risky that holding out with Markkanen and seeing where the final year of his rookie contract takes him. If they sell out on him now, they could still get a decent return for him on the trade block. Wait until next offseason, and they might get next to nothing in return for him.

Looking at this discussion from multiple different perspectives and you should arrive at the conclusion that it doesn’t make much sense for the Bulls to make Markkanen untouchable in trade talks. The one very major caveat to that conclusion that I arrive at is that we don’t know what Karnisovas and Eversley plan to do with Markkanen.

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If the Bulls new front office regime and coaching staff feel that Markkanen is a great fit for the direction they’re moving this team in, then his unique skill set and physical tools is something they should value greatly. If that is the case, then obviously making Markkanen unavailable in trade discussions makes a lot of sense. Otherwise, it does not.