Chicago Bulls: 4 best surprises from the first 4 games of the season

Billy Donovan, Chicago Bulls Mandatory Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports
Billy Donovan, Chicago Bulls Mandatory Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports /
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Lauri Markkanen, Chicago Bulls
Lauri Markkanen, Chicago Bulls Mandatory Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports /

2) Best Chicago Bulls surprises through first 4 games

Improved play of Lauri Markkanen

Among the Bulls starting five so far this season, by far the biggest and best surprise among the individual players is the fourth-year seven footer and 23-year-old power forward Lauri Markkanen. The former Arizona Wildcats stretch big man is in the midst of the final year of his rookie contract, and he’s clearly playing with a chip on his shoulder.

Markkanen was coming off his worst season in the NBA to date during the 2019-20 campaign, which largely soiled any leverage he would have otherwise with Karnisovas and Eversley in contract extension talks prior to the start of this regular season. But he’s certainly earning his stripes through four games this season to try and get a nice pay day come restricted free agency next offseason.

Moreover, Markkanen has started in all four games he played in for the Bulls so far this season. He’s averaged a career high 23.4 points per 36 minutes, 9.2 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 1.0 steals, and 0.3 blocks. And Markkanen shot an efficient 50.0 percent from the field, 47.8 percent from beyond the arc, and 77.8 percent from the free-throw line.

That all amounted to a career best .144 win shares per 48 minutes, 19.4 player efficiency rating, 66.4 true shooting percentage, and a 118 offensive rating/111 defensive rating.

Markkanen only played in 19 minutes in the Bulls Dec. 29 win over the Wizards. He was limited likely due to a nagging calf injury he’s suffered in the last couple of games. And any Bulls fan who knows Markkanen’s injury history is probably going to be concerned about this. We’ll have to wait and see what his status is for the Bulls Dec. 31 road meeting with the Wizards.