Bulls' Lauri Markkanen Out 2-4 Weeks After Shoulder Injury Diagnosed as Sprain

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistFebruary 8, 2021

Orlando Magic forward James Ennis III (11) strips the ball from Chicago Bulls forward Lauri Markkanen, center, during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Friday, Feb. 5, 2021, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
John Raoux/Associated Press

The Chicago Bulls announced Monday morning that big man Lauri Markkanen "is expected to miss 2-4 weeks" with a sprained acromioclavicular joint in his right shoulder.

Markkanen, 23, is averaging 19.1 points and 6.1 rebounds this season in 14 games, shooting 51.4 percent from the field and 39.6 percent from three.

Markkanen also missed about two weeks earlier in the season due to the NBA's health and safety protocols. 

His injury is a major blow for a Bulls team that is already without Otto Porter Jr. (back) and Wendell Carter Jr. (quad), leaving Chicago's frontcourt in shambles. That means Thaddeus Young is in line for a huge role going forward, while players like rookie Patrick Williams and veteran Denzel Valentine are going to see a minutes bump as well. 

It's a dangerous time for the 9-13 Bulls as they look to remain in the playoff hunt in the Eastern Conference. Just two games currently separates the No. 5 Indiana Pacers (12-12) from the No. 11 Bulls at the moment, as the middle and bottom of the conference remains bunched together. 

Markkanen remains a key figure for the Bulls in their continued rebuild alongside Carter, Williams, Porter, Coby White and leading scorer Zach LaVine. The next few weeks and how the Bulls handle his absence could determine whether they go into the NBA trade deadline period as a buyer or a seller. 

The Bulls remain in the murky area between being a true contender built around clear superstars and being an intriguing young team composed of players who appear to have superstar status. The Bulls have promising young players, no doubt, but none who boast elite upside. That means players like LaVine and Porter could be interesting assets to dangle in trades for future draft picks. 

But if the Bulls can keep their playoff hopes alive, it seems unlikely they'll go that route.