Chicago Bulls: Lauri Markkanen can’t expect much in extension talks

Lauri Markkanen, Billy Donovan, Chicago Bulls Mandatory Credit: Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports
Lauri Markkanen, Billy Donovan, Chicago Bulls Mandatory Credit: Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports /

The way that contract talks are reportedly going for Chicago Bulls power forward Lauri Markkanen and Arturas Karnisovas right now don’t sound great.

The report that emerged from Hoops Hype over the weekend that the Chicago Bulls and the fourth-year power forward Lauri Markkanen are “far apart” in contract extension talks shouldn’t surprise many. Markkanen needed to have a big 2019-20 season for him to guarantee a good process through contract extension talks for him entering the final year of his rookie deal.

This report from Hoops Hype did mention that Markkanen does want to return to Chicago from his previous talks. And it mentions that newly hired Bulls executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas does plan on bringing back Markkanen over the long term. If the pieces fit from both sides of contract talks, that would be great.

But if the expectations for Markkanen are unreasonable at the moment, then it’s not worth Karnisovas and general manager Marc Eversley strapping themselves any further than necessary on the cap sheet for next offseason. The Bulls have handed out bad contracts in recent memory, namely to that of overpaid big man Cristiano Felicio.

They shouldn’t repeat a mistake like that again.

It’s hard to figure out an exact dollar amount that Markkanen would be worth for the Bulls to re-sign. The Hoops Hype report does note that stretch big man Davis Bertans commanded a five-year contract worth $80 million on the free agent market over the 2020 offseason. That could be some measuring stick for Markkanen’s talks, but he didn’t shoot as well from downtown as Bertans did last season.

Here’s more on what the Hoops Hype report had to say on this matter of the Markkanen extension talks.

"Publicly, Markkanen has expressed a desire to get a deal done, spent more time in Chicago during the offseason instead of going home to his native Finland, and is excited to play a key role in Billy Donovan’s system. Bulls executive Arturas Karnisovas has also stated he wants to sign Markkanen long-term.If no extension is reached, Chicago can tender a $9 million qualifying offer and make him a restricted free agent. His cap hold would be $20.2 million."

Reportedly, if no extension is reached by the time next offseason arrives, Markkanen would hit the restricted free agent next offseason. And his next cap hold with the Bulls would be set at $20.2 million.

There’s still a lot that the Bulls could do with Markkanen this season if his fit with the new front office regime and coaching staff doesn’t work out as planned. He still holds a good amount of value on the open market, so hitting the trade block could still get something back for him before he would be a free agent next offseason.

Moreover, a good chance still exists that Markkanen is a good fit with the rejuvenated front office and coaching staff under newly hired head coach Billy Donovan. If that is the case, then this could be the breakthrough season that we’ve been looking for out of Markkanen in the last couple of years.

For the time being, Markkanen should be more realistic about what his value with the Bulls should command. He had his worst season in the NBA to date during the 2019-20 campaign. That was really bad timing for his contract extension talks.

During the shortened 2019-20 regular season, Markkanen played in 50 games for the Bulls (all of which he started in). And 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.

Next. 3 biggest Bulls offseason mistakes. dark

Under the direction of former head coach Jim Boylen, Markkanen and the Bulls finished up the 2019-20 regular season with a record of 22-43, good for 11th place in the Eastern Conference standings. After finishing up the preseason with a record of 3-1, the Bulls turn their attention to tipping off the 2020-21 regular season slate against the Atlanta Hawks at home on Dec. 23.