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Bulls Players Season Review & Offseason Outlook: Lauri Markkanen



bulls players season review lauri markkanen

As we move further into the Chicago Bulls offseason, Locked On Bulls will take a closer look at each player on the roster. What kind of impact did they have in the 2017-18 season, and what role (if any) should they be expected to play moving forward?

Next up: Lauri Markkanen

Lauri Markkanen – PF

2017-18 Bulls stats: 68 games, 15.2 points, 43.4 FG%, 36.2 3P%, 7.5 rebounds, 1.2 assists

2018-19 Contract Situation: Year 2 of rookie deal, will earn a base salary of $4.53 million for the 2018-19 season.

Season Review: Congratulations, Lauri Markkanen! You are without a doubt the winner of the “Please Give Us Something To Be Excited About” award of this long and grueling Bulls season. The Arizona product was always expected to go in the top ten of the 2017 NBA Draft, so the Bulls (slated to pick 16th) didn’t even meet with him at last year’s draft combine. They did scout him during his one college season, however. And when Gar Forman and John Paxson pulled the trigger on the Jimmy Butler trade, Markkanen was their man with the 7th overall pick. The perfect stretch four for the modern NBA and coach Fred Hoiberg’s offense.

GarPax haters can shout about the Bulls not even scouting Markkanen, saying they got lucky when they took a kid they didn’t know much about. Fine, go ahead and shout. The important takeaway is that the Bulls did get lucky when they stole Lauri with that 7th pick, and they appear to have a franchise player. There’s a general consensus among league experts that if you were to do the 2017 Draft over again, Markkanen would go third behind Donovan Mitchell and Jayson Tatum. Why? Just look at the season Lauri had.

The Finnish Kid found himself in the starting lineup of the season opener by the most bizarre of circumstances. The two guys fighting for the starting power forward spot in training camp got in an actual fight. Nikola Mirotic was sidelined with a broken face and Bobby Portis got slapped with an 8-game suspension for being the face-breaker. Enter Markkanen. The seven foot stretch forward impressed from the jump, scoring 17 points and grabbing 8 rebounds in his NBA debut. He followed that up with a double double. And on it went, until Lauri’s official coming out party at Madison Square Garden, of all places. The brightest stage in the game’s most highly competitive league, and the rook poured in 33 points, including a poster dunk and 8 three pointers in a Bulls victory. Those 8 threes tied an NBA record set by Dirk Nowitzki for the most made in single game by a 7-footer. Cue Fred’s mouth agape and drooling.

That wasn’t the only record-setting Lauri did this season. In January, he came the fastest player in NBA history to make 100 career three pointers. He also became the first Bulls rookie since Elton Brand in 2000 to score 1,000 points and grab 500 rebounds. In the regular season finale, Lauri broke Kirk Hinrich’s franchise rookie record when he made his 145th three of the season.

In brief? This kid can play. He has perennial All Star potential. Zach LaVine was thought to be the prize of the Jimmy Butler trade when it went down, but Markkanen proved us all wrong. The Finnisher is the prize.

Offseason Outlook: Lauri endured a bad shooting slump in February that lasted into early March. It could’ve been the rookie wall. It could’ve been his paternity leave to Finland in early February after the birth of his first child. That probably exhausted the 20 year old dad. He also sat out a handful of games towards the end of the season with recurring back spasms and soreness. The hope is that he can get both rest and rehabilitation at some point this summer. It won’t be easy, though. Markkanen confirmed last month that he will compete in at least a few of Finland’s FIBA World Cup qualifying games in late June and early July. Lauri is the star of that team, and led them to big victories last year in addition to his Summer League duties with the Bulls. Will Lauri play in Summer League this year, as some second-year players do? To be determined, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see him sit out.

Aside from his Finnish National Team duties, the Bulls hope that Lauri can spend at least some time working on his body and his game at the Advocate Center. He showed his offensive versatility at times, recognizing mismatches and working from the low post. He can face up and knock down shots from the high post, but he needs to improve his ballhandling, back-down moves and attacks to the basket. It might also be a good idea to continue working on a mini hook that we didn’t see too often his rookie season. It’s a great weapon to have for a player of Lauri’s size, regardless of how adept he is behind the three point line. Lauri should also spend time on his defensive footwork this summer. His defense wasn’t nearly as bad as people projected in the draft, and he even had some epic defensive moments this season. But it still needs to get better. And he needs to add some muscle to that frame if he’s going to be able to play defensive minutes at the five and be a true rim protector against the biggest and baddest of the NBA.

Have thoughts on Lauri Markkanen? Comment below or continue the conversation with me on Twitter @Bulls_Peck.

A Chicago native, Matt is an actor-turned-sports guy. Chicagoans may recognize him as Bodhi from the screen to stage hit Point Break LIVE! He studied under ESPN1000's Jonathan Hood as part of his training with the Sportscasters Mentoring Group. In addition to Locked On Bulls, he hosts The 312 on 1590 WCGO, which covers all 5 of Chicago's major teams. His work has been featured on FanRag, Bleacher Report, the Chicago Tribune, WGN & Sports Mockery. He's also a recurring guest on CLTV's Sports Feed. Follow him on Twitter @Bulls_Peck

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  1. Frank

    May 18, 2018 at 9:23 am

    The team on the floor needs to look at Laurie as a first and second option. I saw many times plays developing away from Laurie, especially grant. Laurie getting 8 to 10 shots a game is terrible

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Chicago Bulls

Don’t Hate Wendell Carter Jr. Just Because Bulls Played It Safe



If you were paying attention leading up to the 2018 NBA Draft, you weren’t surprised by what the Chicago Bulls did. Really, you weren’t surprised if you’ve been paying attention to this front office’s draft picks dating back to 2003 when John Paxson took over and Gar Forman was named Director of Player Personnel a year later. Maybe you were disappointed with Wendell Carter Jr. and Chandler Hutchison, maybe you liked the picks. But if you’re an informed Bulls fan, you weren’t surprised. This is what they do.

With two new players in the fold, the Bulls front office reminded the fanbase last night of their modus operandi: safe over sexy. A large contingent of Bulls Nation was screaming for Michael Porter Jr. That faction of fans clearly didn’t want to see what the Bulls – and a dozen other teams – saw: red flags everywhere. Once thought to be the likely #1 overall pick in this draft class, Porter watched 13 players walk across the Barclays Center stage before his name was finally called by the Denver Nuggets. #FireGarPax-ers rolled their eyes and went to their loyal well of criticisms on Twitter and Reddit, disgusted by what they were certain was the latest showing of gross incompetence by Paxson and Forman.

If you’ve been tuning into Locked On Bulls recently, you know where I stand on the Porter debate. I was relieved when the Bulls passed on him and opted for Carter instead. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, among others, reported earlier on Thursday that Porter’s draft stock was falling fast because of the most recent medical reports released to NBA teams. The long-term prognosis for the 19 year old’s surgically repaired back did not look good. That’s the big risk that scared off almost every team in the lottery. There were other risks attached to Porter, like the lack of tape to evaluate his skill outside of high school games, concerns about his ballhandling, shot selection, defense, fit within Fred Hoiberg’s offensive system, rumors about being a bad teammate. Risks and red flags everywhere. This Bulls front office rarely takes risks, and they steered far clear of this one.

In fact, word is the Bulls weren’t even close to considering him. It wasn’t a decision between Porter and Carter, and they just barely decided to play it safe. The Bulls had Alabama’s Collin Sexton higher than Porter on their draft boards, even though they have a starting point guard in Kris Dunn and Porter would’ve filled their desperate need at the wing position. That’s a pretty telling sign right there just how bad those medical reports must have been.

So, to those of you out there hating on Carter already simply because he’s not Porter, read between the lines. And take a good look at the player the Bulls got with the 7th pick.

Those disappointed in Carter tend to claim he’s “just an average player”, “not a difference-maker”, and such. There’s plenty of evidence to argue the opposite. This 19 year old can turn into something really special in the NBA. He nearly averaged a double double (13.5, 9.1) in his lone season at Duke in just 26.8 minutes per game. His frontcourt mate Marvin Bagley III, who went 2nd overall to Sacramento, got the bulk of offensive focus after reclassifying and joining Duke’s squad at the last second. (As a side note, that selflessness from Carter is an example of his high character, which the Bulls front office loves about him. They see him being the same selfless player paired with Lauri Markkanen, who projects to be the focal point of the Bulls offense for years to come.) When Bagley was getting his rest, or during the four games he missed, Carter shined.

Let’s look at some numbers for a minute. Per 40 minutes, Carter averaged 20.2 points, 13.5 rebounds, 3.1 blocks and 3.0 assists. He shot 56.1% from the field, and a very respectable 41.6% on his modest 46 three point attempts. He’s not afraid to go to work on the block and absorb contact with his 6’10, 7’4-wingspan frame, as he averaged 6.8 free throw attempts per 40 minutes. He hit those at 73.8%, which is pretty good for a freshman big. Carter’s offensive versatility – he can already shoot with either hand from the post – inside and out will be an immediate bonus for the Bulls.

His rebounding skills are unquestionably even more impressive than his offense. Those 13.5 rebounds per 40 minutes? Better than Bagley (13.1) and better than Jaren Jackson Jr. (10.6). It’s nearly on par with Deandre Ayton (13.8) and Mohamed Bamba (14.0), who both boast significant height and wingspan edges over Carter. He’s a workhorse on the boards the likes of which Bulls fans have seen before spanning generations: Dennis Rodman and Joakim Noah. Now, imagine if Rodman and Noah could shoot threes? Pretty exciting, eh?

Oh, and while we’re comparing Carter’s numbers to the rest of the top tier bigs in this draft class, let’s look at defense. The biggest concern with Carter is his lateral quickness, which he admits is a work in progress. But his basketball IQ and length will help him make up for that as he develops. In a year or two, when he improves his ability to switch guarding smaller players on the perimeter, he can become one of the most versatile defensive bigs in the league. But for starters, here’s my favorite stat from yesterday:

Carter was the best post-up defender in all of college basketball last season. And as Seth Walder of ESPN points out, that’s an area where the Bulls’ interior defense really needs the help. As for rim protection? Carter’s 3.1 blocks per 40 minutes tripled his teammate Bagley’s 1.0. Better than Deandre Ayton’s 2.3.

Everywhere you look with Carter, there’s upside. And he’s already one of the most NBA-ready players from this class. He’ll likely be mentored by Robin Lopez for the first while, until the Bulls may look to get an asset for Lopez at the deadline. But someday soon, Carter will take over as the team’s center of the future, and his pairing with Markkanen in that frontcourt can blossom into something beautiful for the modern NBA.

Before you jump down my throat about how glowingly positive my thoughts are on another “boring”, “safe”, “typical” Bulls draft, allow me to share some frustrations with you. I’m still upset that the Bulls didn’t execute the tank properly last season. Carter was the smart pick at #7, but the Bulls could’ve had someone better (Jackson, Luka Doncic) had they been picking in the top 3 like they planned.

I’m disappointed that they couldn’t execute a trade last night to move up and grab one of those guys, but the price tag was reportedly too high. What would you be willing to pay to move up three spots? Taking on Chandler Parsons’ $50 million? Gar and Paxson weren’t willing to do that. Give up a future first round pick and your #22 pick? Gar and Paxson didn’t want to mortgage that much when they felt great about Carter. I really don’t know if I would have made either of those deals in their shoes. Remember, part of this rebuilding plan is leaving themselves financially flexible for the loaded free agent class of 2019 when this young core looks more ready to compete. As for relinquishing draft picks while rebuilding? Bulls fans grill the front office daily for doing exactly that. Can’t have it both ways.

There are still plenty of unknowns with this rebuilding core, and this team – despite Paxson’s wishes – will probably be in the lottery again next summer. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. The front office will be judged on how far this rebuild has reached in two or three years, and it might be their last act.

But for today, please allow yourself to look at the positives that came along with the “safe” pick this time around. The Bulls got themselves a very good player in Wendell Carter Jr., and he fits a real need on the roster. Don’t hate him because he’s not Michael Porter Jr. Don’t hate the Bulls for not taking Michael Porter Jr.

I’ve said in once, I’ll say it again. I’ll say it a thousand times if I have to: there are times to judge the Bulls front office for doing something stupid, and there are times when fans do so illogically just because they want to. This Carter pick does not warrant such judgment.

Go watch some tape on Wendell Carter Jr. Look at all of the teams who passed on Michael Porter Jr. because of a serious health risk and terrifying bust potential.

Pay attention. Educate yourself. Then come talk to me.

(PS: I’ll get to my thoughts on Chandler Hutchison sometime in the coming days. Stay tuned.)

Have thoughts on the Bulls draft picks? Comment below or continue the conversation with me on Twitter @Bulls_Peck.

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Chicago Bulls

Chicago Bulls draft Wendell Carter Jr. and Chandler Hutchison



The guys are back after last night’s NBA Draft, they kick off the show by talking about the NBA Draft as a whole and who the Bulls ultimately decided to take at No. 7. Were the guys disappointed with the Bulls inability to move up to No. 3 to take Luka Doncic or Jaren Jackson Jr.? Locked On Bulls discusses why it was almost impossible for the Bulls to trade with Atlanta without overpaying. The guys also discuss the hilarity of NBA reporters tweeting out picks before they were announced, Michael Porter Jr. slipping nearly out of the lottery, and their most surprising and disappointing picks of the night.

Locked On Bulls dives into what Wendell Carter Jr. can be for a rebuilding Bulls team. Was Carter the safe pick at No. 7 and does he have star potential? The guys discuss what they like about Carter, what they think he can be, and how he fits next to Lauri Markkanen. Locked On Bulls destroys the Carlos Boozer comparison, all the while comparing him to other big men in this draft. The guys also discuss the weaknesses Carter will have to improve on and his overall outlook for the future.

Locked On Bulls talks about the most bizarre story of the NBA Draft, the complete shutdown of Chandler Hutchison and the rumored promise of taking him at No. 22. The guys try and convince you to look beyond the smoke of the promise and what Hutchison can bring to the table. The guys also get into a debate about what was left on the board at No. 22, not doing their due diligence, and also the value you can get at No. 22.

The final segment, Locked On Bulls discusses one of the biggest blunders by the Bulls last night. The Bulls decided to hold their post-draft press conference while the first round of the draft was still going on. Jordan and Matt sound off on why it only solidifies the argument of how the Bulls feel about second round picks and trying to get back into the draft. Who were some of the players that dropped to the second round who the Bulls could have taken a flyer on? All of this and so much more on Locked On Bulls.

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Chicago Bulls

Grading the last 15 years of first-round picks by the Chicago Bulls



Locked On Bulls kicks off the show by talking about the latest rumors going into the NBA Draft tonight, whether or not the Bulls will decide to trade up or stand pat. What would Atlanta (No. 3) or Memphis (No. 4) want in return to make a deal possible? The guys give their opinion on whether or not they should ultimately move up.

The second segment the guys give their final predictions for picks No. 1-7, including ultimately what the Chicago Bulls will do. If the Bulls stand pat, will they take the risk on Michael Porter Jr.? Should they play it safe and take Wendell Carter Jr. at No. 7? Is Trae Young even a possibility that the Bulls are thinking about? The guys run through all the possible scenarios for tonight’s draft.

The final segment of the show, the guys go back all the way to 2003 and grade each of the Bulls draft picks in the first round? How did the guys feel about draft picks like Kirk Hinrich, Luol Deng, Taj Gibson, Jimmy Butler, Derrick Rose, and more? What did the guys feel were their bust years? After grading each individual pick, the guys give their overall grade of drafting in the first round over the last 15 years. All of this and so much more on Locked On Bulls.

If you want to give your reaction to tonight’s outcome, hit us up at (331)-979-1369 and leave all of your text messages and voicemails for tomorrow’s show. You can follow along on NBA Draft Night 2018 with the guys on Twitter @JordanCMaly, @Bulls_Peck, and @LockedOnBulls.

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