Report: Lauri Markkanen Receives Qualifying Offer from Bulls, Will Be RFA

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistJuly 30, 2021

Chicago Bulls forward Lauri Markkanen plays during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Sunday, March 21, 2021, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

The Chicago Bulls are looking to keep Lauri Markkanen around for another season.

Chicago offered him the $9 million qualifying offer on his contract, preventing him from becoming an unrestricted free agent this offseason, according to Shams Charania of Stadium and The Athletic: 

Shams Charania @ShamsCharania

Sources: The Bulls have extended the qualifying offer to Lauri Markkanen, making him a restricted free agent. Markkanen is expected to have several suitors on the market.

There was a time that Markkanen's future with the team was in doubt considering Charania reported in March that the front office was listening to possible trade offers for him.

While he came to Chicago as part of the return package in the trade that sent Jimmy Butler to the Minnesota Timberwolves in 2017, this is a new era for the Bulls. Head coach Billy Donovan and executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas are steering the ship, which figured to leave some roster spots vulnerable.

At his best, the 24-year-old is a formidable offensive playmaker, but he also hasn't taken significant strides since posting 15.2 points and 7.5 rebounds per game as a rookie in 2017-18. He is a double-double threat who can extend his game beyond the arc, but his numbers have remained similar and even decreased in some areas.

Markkanen averaged 13.6 points and 5.3 rebounds per game in 2020-21, although he did shoot a career-best 40.2 percent from three-point range.

The biggest concern with Markkanen comes on the defensive side and his inability to even slow down the best big men he faces on a nightly basis. He finished the 2020-21 season at No. 44 among power forwards with -0.74 mark in ESPN's defensive real plus-minus.

There is still plenty to like about his future as a matchup problem who can pull opposing bigs away from the basket while competing for boards, but his defensive struggles for a team looking to build a long-term winner in Chicago may become a problem.

For now, the Bulls are looking to keep him around as they attempt to reach the playoffs in 2021-22.