There have been flashes — 17 points on the final day of the season against Milwaukee, hitting 6-of-11 from the field. Or a couple of games before that, when he scored 20 against the Raptors and coach Billy Donovan gave him more run and kept promising rookie Patrick Williams on the bench longer. Or a stretch of strong games in January.
But it’s always just flashes with Lauri Markkanen in Chicago, nothing consistent.
Markkanen said he thinks he can do more, which is why he is going to look around as restricted free agency this offseason, he told K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago in an exclusive interview.
“My thing is I think I’ve always been a team-first guy. And I think now it’s time to look at the business side of the game,” Markkanen said. “I feel like I’m only 23 years old and I have a lot of basketball ahead of me. It’s a good opportunity to look what’s out there for me. I can be a focal point. I think I have a lot more to offer…
“I feel like I started great. After the COVID thing, I found my rhythm. Then you have a freak accident and bump shoulders and you’re out for four weeks. That sucks and you try to climb back,” Markkanen said. “And then obviously our team changed a lot and changed my role. That was a little bit of an adjustment. I tried to play my role as well as I could.”
Markkanen averaged 13.6 points a game this past season and shot 40.2% from 3 — in a league where shooting is at a premium, he has value. However, he is not a strong defender and not a physical presence despite his size. He’s a fine rotation player but has not shown more than that, at least consistently.
Chicago’s decision maker, executive vice president Artūras Karnišovas, has said all the right things about keeping Markkanen, but the buzz from sources around the league is Markkanen can be poached — the Bulls don’t see a natural fit and aren’t going to spend big on him. Markkanen has bounced between center, back up four, and back up three this season and never found much of a home (although he is a stretch 4/5 by nature).
Markkanen and his free agency are things to watch come the offseason, and don’t be surprised if Markkanen has played his last game as a Bull.