Lauri Markkanen Trade Rumors: Bulls Listening to Offers on PF Ahead of Deadline

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistMarch 23, 2021

Chicago Bulls forward Lauri Markkanen (24) in the first half of an NBA basketball game Friday, March 19, 2021, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
David Zalubowski/Associated Press

The Chicago Bulls are hearing out potential deals for forward Lauri Markkanen ahead of Thursday's NBA trade deadline, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic. 

Markkanen is averaging 17.7 points and 6.0 rebounds while setting career highs in field-goal percentage (48.3) and three-point percentage (39.6) through 22 appearances. The 23-year-old is eligible to become a restricted free agent in the offseason.

In general, Markkanen has benefited from the arrival of Billy Donovan.

Donovan didn't have a high bar to clear in terms of improving upon Jim Boylen's player development track record. Not surprisingly, having players run extra wind sprints and making them use an actual punch clock didn't prove all that beneficial.

When it comes to Markkanen, the difficulty for Chicago is that the 2017 first-round pick hasn't really made significant strides since an encouraging rookie campaign.

Markkanen put up 15.2 points and 7.5 boards in 2017-18 and proceeded to be the same player to slightly varying degrees over the next three seasons. His struggles on defense are the most glaring. He has a 111.8 defensive rating, per NBA.com, and sits 47th among power forwards in ESPN.com's defensive real plus-minus (-0.15).

While re-signing Markkanen makes sense for Chicago because of the offensive value he provides, the team saw firsthand how unpredictable restricted free agency can be when the Sacramento Kings threw a four-year, $78 million offer sheet at Zach LaVine in 2018.

It only takes one team to covet Markkanen before the Bulls would be pressed to either match a big contract or let him leave for nothing.

The front office shouldn't look to jettison the Finnish sharpshooter simply to trade him, but gauging his market is a smart move in case another franchise is willing to go above and beyond.