Chicago Bulls: Lauri Markkanen extension is the next big question mark

Lauri Markkanen, Chicago Bulls (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
Lauri Markkanen, Chicago Bulls (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /

The Chicago Bulls seven-footer and fourth-year power forward Lauri Markkanen has a looming contract decision to be made by management.

Most of the action for the Chicago Bulls during this very long 2020 offseason in their camp is about to come to an end. The Bulls haven’t played in meaningful game action since mid-March, when they knocked off the divisional foe Cleveland Cavaliers at home (specifically on March 10). Within the last week, we’ve seen the Bulls take part in the 2020 NBA Draft and the start of this cycle of free agency.

Newly hired executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas and general manager Marc Eversley made some interesting moves in the last couple of months, mostly that look to move this rebuild forward heading into its fourth year. They replaced former Bulls head coach Jim Boylen with the ex-Oklahoma City Thunder bench boss Billy Donovan back on Sep. 22.

And the Bulls selected the former Florida State Seminoles freshman forward and the reigning ACC Sixth Man of the Year Patrick Williams fourth overall in the draft lottery. They also picked up the KK Mega Bemax 21-year-old big man Marko Simonovic 44th overall in the second round of the draft.

Karnisovas got excellent value on the undrafted free agent market in the hours following the conclusion of the second round of the draft by signing former Kansas Jayhawks point guard and Chicago native Devon Dotson. Dotson got one of the Bulls two-way contract slots along with the second-year shooting guard/wing Adam Mokoka.

Really the lone addition to the Bulls roster through free agency came when they signed former Brooklyn Nets veteran 34-year-old shooting guard Garrett Temple. The Bulls got Temple on a value contract for one year, worth $5 million.

Up next for the Bulls is the focus on Training Camp and finalizing the roster. Training Camp begins officially on Dec. 1, and the start of the 2020-21 regular season is set for Dec. 22.

What the Bulls also have to focus on the very near future is figuring out what to do with fourth-year power forward Lauri Markkanen. Entering the final year of his rookie contract, Markkanen needs to have a bounce back season.

A contract extension for Markkanen would likely be very expensive and risky for the Bulls. But it could be a risk worth taking if the way that Karnisovas, and namely Donovan, plan to use Markkanen moving forward works out for the better.

Last season was both the first full campaign for Markkanen under Boylen’s direction, and it was the worst statistically of his career to date. The quick change to both the front office personnel and the coaching staff this offseason bodes well for the career path of Markkanen in the Windy City.

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The Bulls finished up the 2019-20 shortened regular season with a record of 22-43, under Boylen’s direction, good for 11th place in the Eastern Conference standings. They do have a much more promising outlook entering the 20202-21 season.