Lauri Markkanen wants out of Chicago and was hoping to get that with a team that would pay him a little more than the league average (he wanted $14 million a season) and would give him a larger role. So far, none of that has been out there for him.
Dallas is interested in bringing him in, something Marc Stein reported last week. However, they want to do so at a price that fits into their trade exception, which is $11 million a year, and he would play a reserve role. Tim Cato at The Athletic breaks it down in more detail.
Dallas would love to convince Markkanen to sign under his market value — and what is market value, if the market hasn’t provided him the $15 million annually he hoped for — and fit him into the team’s $11 million traded player exception (TPE). That’s beneficial for two reasons: 1) there’s less pressure for Markkanen to be anything but a useful rotational player for the team given his questionable fit starting next to Kristaps Porzingis, and 2) he’s an appealing player who’s still 24 and who the team could trade for a better-fitting one….
Dallas could offer Markkanen, say, a three-year deal worth $44 million and send back about $10 million in offsetting salary in a direct trade not involving its TPE. I’ve heard Chicago has interest in Kleber; it’s a riskier deal for Dallas giving up both a rotational player and signing Markkanen to a higher salary point.
While Maxi Kleber is not a game changer, why trade a reliable rotation player (when healthy) and one of their better perimeter defenders to give more money to a player Dallas isn’t sure would be a good fit and isn’t a good defender? I think the Mavericks would only do a sign-and-trade for Markkanen if they can use the trade exception and not surrender a quality rotation player.
Even then, is he a good fit? Count me among the skeptical that Markkanen and Kristaps Porzingis could play together, and if the Mavericks make the trade that’s a lot of money wrapped up in stretch bigs with a long injury history. However, if the Mavericks are just using their trade exception and sending out a heavily protected pick (the Bulls are asking for a first-rounder), Markkanen becomes a reasonable gamble by them. He is just 24.
One potential delay: With the NBA investigating the Lonzo Ball sign-and-trade to the Bulls, the team may be in a holding pattern on conducting another such deal.
From the players’ perspective, does Markkanen have a better offer than the Maverick’s trade exception? Not many teams are beating down his door (the Pelicans reportedly have interest in him as a backup four, and they have their own trade exception, but no offer has been made). He could take the qualifying offer from the Bulls, return to Chicago next season for just less than $9 million, then be an unrestricted free agent next summer. Or he gets a little more from the Mavericks and tries to carve out a role working off-ball and spacing the floor next to Luka Doncic.
Nothing seems to be moving quickly with Markkanen, and at this point in free agency the market is pretty dry. His options are limited, and that could see him in Dallas next season. Maybe.