Reports: Pelicans, Hornets interested in Markkanen; Bulls seeking first-round pick

Chicago Bulls v Brooklyn Nets
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Lauri Markkanen is one of the best free agents still available. Plus, he wants to move on from the Bulls and the Bulls want to move on from him.

There is interest in him around the league, but there are also obstacles for the restricted free agent to overcome.

Some of that interest comes from the Pelicans, reports Marc Stein (you should subscribe to his newsletter), who also gets to one of the big problems with Markkanen finding a new home.

There is also interest from the Hornets, and while they spent their free agent cap space on Kelly Oubre Jr., there is some buzz in league circles about Charlotte still having interest (a sign-and-trade is possible).

Two big things have held Markkanen back from finding a deal. One is that he wants more than mid-level exception money ($9.5 million a season), and teams are balking at that number for multiple years for him (the Spurs did when they talked to Markkanen, according to Brian Windhorst on The Hoop Collective podcast).

The only way Markkanen is getting that money now is likely a sign-and-trade with the Bulls, and as Stein notes, Chicago is asking a lot in return in a first-round pick. That is way to high, it’s the Bulls starting ask, and it will come down if things get serious, but how much is any team going to give up to see if Markkanen is a fit and can stay healthy?

No doubt Markkanen brings some skills. He is a classic stretch four who can score some inside but hit 40.2% of his 3s and averaged 13.6 points per game for the Bulls last season. The challenge is keeping him on the floor, partly because he is a minus defender and not a rim protector, and partly because he has missed at least 21 games each of the last three seasons due to injury. 

The Pelicans have had a lackluster offseason; they could use the spark and the shooting. The question is how much they are willing to spend and give up to see if Markkanen can fill that role.