The Charlotte Hornets have "strong interest" in restricted free agent Lauri Markkanen, according to Shams Charania of Stadium and The Athletic.
The 24-year-old can sign an offer sheet beginning Friday, giving the Chicago Bulls the option to match the offer or let him leave. Chicago has been active since the start of free agency, adding Lonzo Ball, DeMar DeRozan and Alex Caruso.
Markkanen finished last season with averages of 13.6 points and 5.3 rebounds per game, both the lowest of his four-year career. After starting all but one game over his first three seasons, the forward came off the bench in 25 of 51 games in 2020-21.
Despite the reduced role, Markkanen improved his efficiency with a career-high 40.2 three-point percentage and 48.0 field-goal percentage. The 7'0" player is an ideal stretch-4 who averaged as many as 18.7 points per game in 2018-19 and has proved he can help in a variety of roles.
It could be a valuable addition for the Hornets, who are heavily perimeter-oriented with LaMelo Ball, Terry Rozier and Gordon Hayward handling the scoring load. First-round pick James Bouknight added even more depth to the backcourt, while the frontcourt is led by undersized forwards Miles Bridges and P.J. Washington.
Mason Plumlee will add size and experience after a trade from the Detroit Pistons, but the 31-year-old is limited offensively.
Markkanen would add much-needed depth down low while retaining valuable spacing in this guard-heavy offense. There could also be plenty of open looks with the way Ball runs the offense.
The Hornets will look for any upgrades after finishing 33-39 last season, the fifth straight year without a playoff appearance.