Lauri Markkanen trade is a forgotten black eye for the Bulls

Trading away the Finnish wing has proved disastrous for Chicago.
Lauri Markkanen, Nikola Vucevic, Chicago Bulls
Lauri Markkanen, Nikola Vucevic, Chicago Bulls / Jamie Sabau-USA TODAY Sports

It is plain to see that the Chicago Bulls' strategies have not exactly resulted in success over the last several seasons. Missing the playoffs in six of the last seven years, the Bulls are firmly in NBA no-man's land, and do not appear to be making any dramatic improvements anytime soon.

The current era in Chicago essentially began in summer of 2021 when the Bulls acquired three new players in DeMar DeRozan, Lonzo Ball, and Alex Caruso. With these three guys in town, many assumed the team would be one of the top squads in the Eastern Conference and be a legitimate playoff contender.

Chicago gained an all-world scorer, a trustworthy floor general and a lockdown perimeter defender. All the ingredients for a deep playoff run were certainly there, but injuries derailed what could have been a special 2021-22 season. Since then, Lonzo has yet to return to the court and the Bulls continue to wallow in the miserable middle.

One of the more forgotten missteps by the Bulls from the last several years is one that occurred in that same offseason where they leveled up and added multiple new faces to the roster. That was the same offseason Chicago traded away Lauri Markkanen, sending him to the Cleveland Cavaliers in a three-team trade.

The Bulls set themselves back sending away Lauri

At the time, making a deal to send away Markkanen seemed like a solid step forward given his production at the time. Lauri's career seemed to have plateaued with it feeling likely he had reached his peak as a player. The Bulls did not appear to see a path forward that heavily involved Markkanen, so they opted to get as much back for him as possible instead.

After spending a year in Cleveland where his production remained mostly the same, Markkanen landed in Utah for the 2022-23 season, where he reached a new level not many would have seen coming. In the Jazz's offense, Lauri was set up extremely well and he thrived at both ends of the floor. Bullying opponents in the post and becoming a knockdown catch-and-shoot scorer, Markkanen earned the Most Improved Player Award and was named to his first career All-Star team.

Looking back on his whole situation, the Bulls have to be kicking themselves. They had a starter-level talent in their locker room that could have absolutely elevated their team given the right playing time and developmental help. Instead, they got back one measly first-round pick and Derrick Jones Junior.

Chicago ended up just one game away from the playoffs this past season. If the front office had more closely evaluated the assets they had in 2021, it is possible we see a very different outlook for this team today.