This weekend, Chicago Bulls fans will get to see the 23-year-old power forward Lauri Markkanen in action for the first time this calendar year.
At the moment, it’s hard to exactly tell how he will fit back into the rotation, but the Chicago Bulls fourth-year power forward Lauri Markkanen looks to be returning back to the rotation for the Jan. 15 road showdown against the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Bulls will face the Thunder after a five day hiatus since their last game.
The originally scheduled Jan. 12 matchup set to take place at home at the United Center between the Bulls and Boston Celtics was pushed due to novel coronavirus related issues. That meant that the Bulls would then take part in their next game action heading into the weekend. The Bulls are set to hit the road again this weekend to take on more Western Conference foes, this time against the Thunder and Dallas Mavericks.
Moreover, the Bulls have faced the Mavericks and Thunder a combined three times (if you include the preseason slate). But this Bulls team looks to be much different in it’s energy and chemistry 11 games into this regular season than they were a few weeks back, and during the preseason.
Although the Bulls do carry a three-game losing streak into their matchup with the Thunder on Jan. 15, they had a really tough four-game west coast road trip last week. Their last game resulted in a tough three-point loss to the Los Angeles Clippers back on the afternoon of Jan. 10.
However, with the Bulls getting the likes of Markkanen back into the rotation, what kind of impact will that have on the team?
The Bulls certainly saw their offense get off and running while Markkanen was out both with a lower-body injury issue and due to a violation of the NBA’s health and safety protocols. The combination of standout shooting guard Zach LaVine and second-year point guard Coby White helped the Bulls get going, especially on the offensive end, in the last few games.
It’s not like Markkanen was inefficient for the Bulls in his four games played prior to missing the bulk of the regular season slate so far. In his four games played (all of which he started in), Markkanen averaged 17.3 points per game, 6.8 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 0.8 steals, and 0.3 blocks. And he shot 50.0 percent from the field, 47.8 percent from beyond the arc, and 77.8 percent from the free-throw line.
There was only one occasion where the Bulls posted a team offensive rating lower than 110 since Markkanen exited the lineup. In his four games played, half of their offensive ratings in games were lower than 110. That correlation might not be too direct since the team came out of the gates slow as a whole.
But there is definitely something to be said for the way players like center Wendell Carter Jr., White LaVine, and small forward Otto Porter Jr. have improved their overall production and efficiency of late.
If there is one thing that is clear, it’s that the Bulls are going to see some big shift in their play offensively. Getting Markkanen back in the mix should add a new dimension to the offense, but it could disrupt things just as easily.
The Bulls and Thunder are set to tip off at the Chesapeake Energy Center on Jan. 15, specifically at 7 p.m. CT. Both the Bulls and Thunder sit outside of the playoff picture in the current standings in their respective conferences, as of the night of Jan. 14.