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Lauri Markkanen Rumors: Mavs, Pelicans Interested in Bulls' RFA in 2021 Free Agency

Blake SchusterContributor IAugust 8, 2021

Glenn James/NBAE via Getty Images

Chicago Bulls restricted free agent Lauri Markkanen told Finnish reporter Antti-Jussi Sipila on Friday he wants a "fresh start" elsewhere in the NBA and already has several offers from teams, according to Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports. 

It appears the Dallas Mavericks and New Orleans Pelicans may be two of those clubs trying to acquire him.

Speaking on The Mismatch podcast, The Ringer's Kevin O'Connor noted the Mavs are looking to add the 24-year-old forward. 

"One other team to watch for [Lauri] Markkanen is the Dallas Mavericks," O'Connor said (h/t SI.com). "I've heard they also have interest, so there's some sign-and-trade possibilities involving him with Charlotte and Dallas."

Later on Sunday, NBA insider Marc Stein reported the Pelicans have the assets to make a sign-and-trade happen, but the Bulls' price to do so remains considerably high:

Marc Stein @TheSteinLine

Markkanen says he does not want to return to Chicago but has yet to manufacture a better option than one last season as a Bull to gain unrestricted free agency.<br><br>The Bulls and Pels also still haven't completed their Lonzo Ball sign-and-trade which is now under NBA investigation.

The No. 7 overall pick in 2017 hasn't quite lived up to the Bulls' expectations since they acquired him in a draft-night trade that sent Jimmy Butler to the Minnesota Timberwolves. While Markkanen showed plenty of promise during a sophomore campaign in which he averaged 18.7 points and 9.0 rebounds per game for a bottom-feeding Bulls team that went 22-60, that seems to be an outlier in an underwhelming start to his career. 

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In 51 games last season, the Arizona product averaged 13.6 points and 5.3 rebounds while coming off the bench in 25 contests. He did, however, shoot a career-best 48 percent from the floor. 

"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 told NBC Sports Chicago's K.C. Johnson in May. "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."

Dallas may be just the opportunity he's looking for. Not only would Markkanen get a chance to join a Western Conference contender with Luka Doncic at the helm, but the forward has often spoken about how he's tried to model his game after Mavs legend Dirk Nowitzki—who now serves as the team's special adviser in the front office. 

The two previously connected when Nowitzki coached Team World in the 2019 Rising Stars Challenge during All-Star Weekend in Charlotte, North Carolina. 

"I remember he told me there's going to be adversity and stuff, but you just gotta keep working through them," Markkanen said at the time. "He believes I can be a great player in this league and I'm trying to live up to those expectations."

Now, it appears the Mavs may have an opportunity to prove Nowitzki right. It's unclear how Markkanen could fit in a crowded frontcourt rotation featuring Kristaps Porzingis, Maxi Kleber, Dwight Powell and Willie Cauley-Stein, but adding another versatile big man would give new head coach Jason Kidd plenty of options as he looks to improve the team on both ends of the floor. 

  

  

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