Should the Bulls Extend Lauri Markkanen?

Lauri Markkanen enters the last season of his rookie scale contract, in which after this season he will be eligible for restricted free agency. The Bulls can avoid Lauri Markkanen becoming a restricted free agent, but only if they can agree to an extension before the December 21st deadline. If not, they will risk Markkanen entering a market that has started to dry up before it even began. With some of the top projected free agents signing long term deals, Lauri Markkanen could enter 2021 with high demand if he finds success this season. The Bulls can risk a lot by letting him enter restricted free agency, and in my opinion it is a risk worth taking.

The Athletic

Lauri Markkan has played three seasons in the NBA, this upcoming one will be his 4th. Lauri his rookie year averaged 15.2ppg on 43% shooting, 36% from deep. He started 68 games averaging 7.2rpg in a little less than 30mpg. Lauri showed some potential. A 7 footer who could stretch it from range, and also had athleticism to run the floor and drive on hard close outs. After his rookie season, there were a lot of “what ifs” with Markkanen. What if he develops his handle? What if he gets stronger? Can he be an All-Star? Can he be a building block?

His sophomore season Lauri started the season with an elbow injury that had him out until December 1st. Markkanen through the first 30 games or so was about the same player you saw last season. There was an understanding though as Markkanen missed all of training camp and the first 6 weeks of the season, there would at least be a period of Markkanen getting back into rhythm. Then the infamous February stretched happened. Lauri Markkanen in a 10 game stretched averaged; 26ppg on 49% shooting. He shot 35% from deep, while securing 12.2rpg. Lauri showed a player who wasn’t just relying on pick n pop, or drive n kicks. He ran the floor getting easy baskets, and did not settle for 3 point shots. It was the stretch of Bulls’ fans were waiting for from Markkanen. But it raised expectations for next season. People were expecting an All-Star breakout year from Lauri Markkanen in his third season.

Unfortanetly Markkanen’s third season did not go as planned. He regressed. Markkanen’s averages dropped. 14ppg on 43% shooting. 34% from deep, and only 6.3rpg. But what was most disappointing was the way Markkanen played. Markkanen seemed to settle as just a pick n pop player, more than 50% of his shots came from deep. But even more problematic was that Markkanen’s shot has regressed. He didn’t hit 3s at the same rate in previous seasons. He seemed to lose his confidence in himself and how he was being used. Markkanen’s 3rd season was a huge let down. Even more so because it was going into his extension eligible season. The Bulls were hoping Markkanen would be an obvious extension candidate this year. But now we are asking the question; Is Markkanen worth it?

NBA.com

The 2021 Market

The 2021 market a year ago seemed promising. Players like Paul George, Giannis Antetokounmpo, LeBron James and Anthony Davis were big names teams had thought they were going to have a chance at. But all those players have committed long term to their current teams, leaving the market a little more dry than expected. But for a player like Lauri Markkanen, this could be great. Teams have been gearing up for 2021, leaving themselves plenty of money to spend. But now there are less players to spend it on. So for someone like Lauri Markkanen, having a good season can result in a big payday. It raises the questions if the Bulls should risk letting Markkanen hit the 2021 market. They might end up having to overpay to keep him or maybe even lose him for nothing.

The top free agent power forwards seem to be: Lauri Markkanen(RFA), LaMarcus Aldridge, Serge Ibaka(PO), JaMychal Green(PO), John Collins (RFA), Jonathan Issac(RFA), Nemanja Bjelica, Montrezl Harrell(PO), and PJ Tucker. Maybe you can consider players like Kawhi Leonard, Otto Porter Jr, Doug McDermott, and DeMar DeRozan small ball PFs as well. The talent pool at Lauri Markkanen’s position is not necessarily deep but not too thin either. In my opinion Markkanen’s a good season away from getting paid. Four teams with cap space that could use a PF as of now are; Dallas, Miami, New York, and San Antonio. All four of these teams have the cap space to offer Markkanen close to his max. Not I think that will happen or should, but it important to note the possibility. There is legit competition for Markkanen if he can play better.

The Bulls only have 5 more days to decide on Markkanen’s extension. They unfortunately have to decide before seeing him play this regular season. In 2 preseason games, Markkanen has been inconsistent. In the 1st game he scored 13 points on 5 of 8 shooting, 3 of 5 from deep. In the 2nd game though he scored 3 points on 1 from 10 shooting, 0 from 5 from deep. While he was active in both games, at the end of the day it was good reprensentation of Markkanen’s career. Good and bad games. And personally I haven’t seen much difference from Markkanen this season, besides a leaner thinner Markkanen. I acknowledge though it has only been 2 games, small sample size. Probably don’t want to judge too much, but unfortunately we don’t have much choice. The deadline is this Tuesday, this preseason games are the only thing we can judge him on. But mainly use as projection for the upcoming season. As of now, I can’t imagine getting a much different Lauri Markkanen. He seems to be the same player we have seen the last 3 seasons. And I’m starting to believe that is who he is.

In my opinion the Bulls, should NOT extend Markkanen before his deadline. Unless he is willing to take something around 15 million a season, which I don’t think he would. Markkanen has shown to be too limited. His most valued asset, his jump shot, has slowly regressed each season. His defense and rebounding is not good, especially for someone his size. But mainly offensively he is too limited. The ball handling hasn’t improved, and he doesn’t show good passing vision. At this point in time, he is pick n pop 4 who can run the floor. And while you can argue he can be better, I’m not a big fan of playing players on potential and that is what you are doing with Markkanen. I’m willing to risk him having a good season, and deal with this problem next offseason.

Chicago Bulls Preseason Game #2 Preview

The Chicago Bulls look for a fresh start after getting blown out by the Houston Rockets Friday night. While the loss in preseason is meaningless, the fact the Bulls played bad basketball isn’t. The Bulls only have 3 games left to work out all the things that went wrong Friday, and it begins tonight against the same team that blew them out.

NBCSportsChicago

Projected Starters(Bulls): Coby White, Zach Lavine, Otto Porter, Lauri Markkanen, Wendell Carter

Bench(Bulls): Tomas Satoransky, Chandler Hutchison, Patrick Williams, Daniel Gafford, Ryan Arcidiacono, Noah Vonleh, Luke Kornet, Devon Dotson, Zach Norvell, Adam Mokoka, Cristiano Felicio, Simi Shittu

Inactives(Bulls): Denzel Valentine(hamstring), Garrett Temple(covid), Thaddeus Young(infection leg)

Projected Starters(Rockets): John Wall, Eric Gordon, Danuel House, Jae’Sean Tate, DeMarcus Cousins

Bench: Bruno Caboclo, Ben McLemore, David Nwaba, Chris Clemons, Kenny Wooten, Jerian Grant, Mason Jones, Gerald Green, KJ Martin, Brodric Thomas, Trevelien Green

Inactives: James Harden, Sterling Brown, PJ Tucker, Christian Wood

The two most glaring issues for the Bulls Friday night was perimeter defense and turnovers. The Bulls on the perimeter defensively could not contain their man.

The Bulls can’t just allow ball handlers to get to the paint so easily. They must have more pride in keeping their man in front of you. Some of these are unacceptable. It is preseason game 1 so let’s not panic. But if this is a common occurrence in tonight’s game, there will be cause for concern. I would like to see the perimeter defenders do a much better job at containing their guy.

The Bulls also committed 20 turnovers Friday night. If you turnover the ball 20 times, you will probably lose. Turnovers are bad, but the careless ones hurt the most. The Bulls had a ton of them Friday night. Instead of moving the ball, bigs were holding the ball on the perimeter too long and getting picked. Instead of the simple pass, players were trying to do too much. The Bulls have to show more value in taking care of the ball.

As a team, these are the two things I mainly want to see improve tonight. It isn’t so much about winning or losing. But the Bulls were blown out, because these two areas were executed poorly.

Daily Herald

Individually Wendell Carter struggled Friday night. Specifically with Wendell, he went 0-5 from long range. Bulls coaching has encouraged Wendell to shoot more, and I would agree with this. Even with missing his 5 threes, fundamentally there is nothing wrong. In college, he was a respectable 3 point shooter. The shots he missed were good shots. Coaches want Wendell’s confidence to grow when shooting 3s, it will only expand his game even more. What I want to see is Wendell continue to not be shy, and shoot when open. After a 0-5 night, he can not get discouraged. Hopefully if the opportunities are there, Wendell takes them and hopefully starts to make them.

“If I had to give it a 1-10, I’d day 3 or 4.

“If I had to give it a 1-10, I’d say a 3 or 4”, Coby White on his performance Friday night. Coby White had 15 points and 6 assist in 23 minutes last night, but I’m glad he recognized he wasn’t good. Defensively he had trouble containing his man. Offensively he scored the ball, but the offense did not run smooth with him on the court. White’s 6 assist were obvious one-pass away reads, which it is good he makes those passes. But he also missed a lot of opportunities.

Coby White is only 20 years old, so it isn’t about Coby White becoming a natural point guard tonight. It is clear he is learning the position. But what I would like to see is Coby focus more on getting his teammates involved so the offense runs more fluid with him on the court. White finding a balance between his scoring ability and running the offense is a big key to the Bulls’ success this season.

Daniel Gafford I thought had a rough game. He seemed to play out of his skill set. Holding the ball too long, or just forcing up shots in the paint. Perhaps they encouraged him to be aggressive, but he doesn’t seem to have the skills to do more than what he was asked last year. High energy on the glass and rim running pressure on the defense. He was solid in that role last year. Maybe he has worked on some new things, but I’m not sure I want to see the offense run through Gafford a whole lot more. But I guess it is preseason, so why not.

Again, I’m not so much concerned on whether the Bulls win tonight. What is important in preseason is they start to create habits that will produce winning. The turnovers and bad perimeter defense we saw Friday night will not produce wins, let’s break those habits.

Chicago Bulls Preseason Game 1 Recap

The Chicago Bulls hosted the Houston Rockets in game 1 of the 2020-21 preseason. It was Chicago’s first game in 9 months and unfortunately looked like it as well. The Bulls were blown out 125-104 in a game that was never really competitive. It is only preseason so there should not be panic, but instead a recognition of what went wrong.

“We got our ass kicked in”

The Bulls’ defense had trouble all game getting stops. John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins were both good in their return to NBA games. Houston shot the ball well making 24 of 52 threes. Bruno Caboclo made 5 of those 24. Yes, Bruno Caboclo. You do have to give credit to Houston because offensively they were hitting their shots, but what the Bulls didn’t do is make it tough for them.

The Chicago Bulls’ defense was terrible. “We didn’t guard the ball well enough. We didn’t help well enough. And we didn’t block out well enough. We have to build those habits”, head coach Billy Donovan said after the game. And he is right. Looking at the film, the Bulls were very sloppy on the defensive end.

Clips of Bulls Struggling Defense

The Bulls could not stay in front of their man last night. It was a consistent problem all game. It prevented the Bulls from ever being able to get back in the game. While Houston shot the ball well, Chicago gave up way too many easy baskets. Easy baskets which got Houston’s offense going.

Offensively the Bulls were way too careless with the ball. The Bulls committed 20 turnovers, and a lot of them were at the fault of who was handling the ball.

Bulls Turnovers

The bad defense and turnovers was enough to lose the game. In addition to Houston shooting well, the Bulls got blown out. But in a preseason game the win or lose isn’t really the issue. Coaches don’t even scout the other team, so there isn’t a lot of strategy. But fundamentally the Bulls just didn’t play good basketball. And that has to get better by the regular season.

Billy Donovan in the first half stuck with a 9 man rotation. The starters Coby White, Zach Lavine, Otto Porter, Lauri Markkanen, and Wendell Carter Jr. Off the bench was Tomas Satoransky, Chandler Hutchison, Patrick Williams, and Daniel Gafford. Somewhat a preview of what to expect in the regular season opener. Expected rotational player Thaddeus Young missed the game with a leg infection, and when he returns he is expected to play. Likely meaning Chandler Hutchison or even Daniel Gafford could be replaced by him depending how big or small coach Donovan wants to go. The guard rotation seems it will mainly be handled by Coby White, Zach Lavine, and Tomas Satoransky. Although we did see a lineup that featured Hutchison, Porter, and Williams. While nothing is set in stone, you start to get an idea of what coach is thinking in terms of his rotations.

Noah Vonleh who is competing to make the team played a little under 12 minutes. He scored 12 points and grabbed 8 rebounds. He played with a lot energy and showed a unique versatility offensively for a guy his size. It seems he is battling out a roster spot with either Luke Kornet or Cristiano Felicio. One thing that stood out about Noah Vonleh was he was used at both the PF and C position last night. A versatility neither Kornet or Felicio have. We didn’t even see Felicio play. Kornet played 7 minutes and didn’t do much. But showed some good defense around the rim at times. One obvious way of thinking is you just waive Felicio, and keep Vonleh. But with Felicio making 7.5million in his last season, his contract can be rather useful as a salary filler/expiring contract for trades. If one thing was clear last night, Vonleh is the better player of the three. We know that at least.

Chicago Bulls’ 1st round pick Patrick Williams played his first game, and was quite impressive at his 19 years of age. Williams showed a lot of poise for a rookie, but also was comfortable with the ball in his hands. His first basket was a nice pull up in transition, and he showed a lot of the qualities Bulls’ front office raved about. In 25 minutes Pat Williams scored 12 points, 5 of 9 from the field.

Patrick Williams displayed a lot of touch on his jump shot, and showed some flashes of shot creation. Defensively Williams found himself matched up against smaller quicker players a lot. And while at times it seemed to be too much for him, he also at times was able to stay in front of a player like John Wall. He at least showed solid defensive stance and fundamentals, and makes you believe the kid knows how to play defense. Ideally you won’t have him guarding NBA guards on a consistent basis. I had thought the Bulls might bring him up slowly, but after last night I was wrong. He is playing.

Coaches have said they wanted Wendell Carter to shoot more, which was the opposite approach of what Jim Boylen wanted. Last night under Billy Donovan in 19 minutes, Wendell shot 5 threes but made zero. They weren’t bad shots though, and Billy Donovan echoed that after the game. “This is good for him, because he’s getting the freedom to handle it up top … I want him taking those.”

I didn’t mind Wendell shooting as many 3s as he did. He didn’t look bad shooting them. There just has to be a balance. I’m not sure I want Wendell shooting near double digit 3s a game, but I like they are encouraging him to shoot. In years past he seemed almost afraid to shoot, and in preseason getting him to be comfortable is the right approach. He was a respectable shooter in college, he should be able to average close to one 3 per game and make defenses respect him.

The Chicago Bulls return to action Sunday night in Chicago against the Houston Rockets again, for preseason game #2 of the 2020-21 NBA season.

Chicago Bulls Preseason Game 1 Preview

The Chicago Bulls return to live basketball Friday night, as they host the Houston Rockets. The Bulls haven’t played a game since March, when the season was postponed due to Covid. The Rockets however were invited to the NBA bubble in July, but were eliminated in the 2nd round of the playoffs in September. Both teams made changes at the head coaching position, Chicago hiring Billy Donovan and Houston hiring Stephen Silas.

Credit: Bulls.com

Chicago Bulls

Projected Starters: Coby White, Zach Lavine, Otto Porter Jr, Lauri Markkanen, Wendell Carter Jr
Bench: Tomas Satoransky, Patrick Williams, Daniel Gafford, Ryan Arcidiacono, Chandler Hutchison, Luke Kornet, Devon Dotson, Adam Mokoka, Noah Vonleh, Zach Norvell, Cristiano Felicio, Simi Shittu
Inactive: Denzel Valentine(hamstring strain), Garrett Temple(Covid), Thaddeus Young(leg infection)

*updated this morning with news Thaddeus Young is OUT tonight.

What to Look For?

Bulls New Defensive Scheme: Reports out of camp are the Bulls have played a lot more drop coverage defensively, versus the blitzing coverage they mainly used under Jim Boylen. While the Bulls defense was respectable, they struggled rebounding the ball finishing the 3rd worst team in rebounding percentage. And while their defense held its own against bad teams, good teams weren’t phased by the blitz. Drop coverage will keep their bigs at the rim, ideally helping with the rebounding. Also some believe will play more to the roster’s strengths. The Bulls hope to maintain and improve the respectable level of defensive they played at last season.

Starters Won’t Play Much: Billy Donovan said he doesn’t anticipate a lot of starters going into the 2nd half. And specifically Billy Donovan has alluded to being cautious with wing Otto Porter Jr, saying his health is the “most important aspect” of the upcoming season. Expect the bench to get most of the playing time, and don’t expect a whole lot out of Otto Porter tonight.

Patrick Williams: The Bulls selected Patrick Williams 4th overall to many people’s surprise. The Bulls’ new front office have placed a lot of faith in their pick, and it will be intriguing to watch Williams play for the first time since being selected. What position can he play? Can he really handle the ball at the NBA level? Is he the real deal? I don’t want to overreact to anything we see tonight, but it will be hard not too.

Wendell Carter Jr new “facilitator” role: “I think there’s a lot of things he can do: he’s a facilitator, a good passer for a big man. Doing more around the perimeter will be a big part of his growth… I think Wendell is someone who is very bright… and he can make people around him better”. A quote from head coach Billy Donovan. Many believe Wendell’s skill set has been improperly used under Jim Boylen, and it seems new head coach Billy Donovan is one of those people. It will be really intriguing to see how much different Wendell will be used, but mainly how much different his production can be.

Credit: Bulls.com

Top 3 Questions?

Is Markkanen more than a “catch and shoot guy”? Billy Donovan opened media week by saying Lauri Markkanen must be more than a “catch and shoot guy”. And he is right, because Lauri should be able to do more. But for some reason last season, Lauri seemed content with popping out to three or just standing on the perimeter. Was it the way he was used? Or has Lauri just settled into this way of playing on this current roster? I am interested to see how Donovan will try to get Lauri going and become the player many say he can be.

Is Otto Porter healthy? The beginning of last season, Otto Porter dealt with a hip injury that affected his play and eventually his availability. A hip injury that plagued Otto in his time with Washington. It was obvious right away last season something wasn’t right with Otto, and I hope it is obvious this season nothing is wrong. Otto Porter is vital to the Bulls having success this season.

Can Noah Vonleh challenge for roster spot? Chicago Bulls president Arturas Karnisovas mentioned Noah has a chance to compete for roster spot. For Noah to make the team, the Bulls would have to waive one of their guaranteed contracts. Meaning the Bulls will have to pay someone to leave. Likely victims would be Luke Kornet or Cristiano Felicio. Noah will have to impress for Bulls to be willing to do this.

Credit: Bulls.com

Houston Rockets

Projected Starters: John Wall, Eric Gordon, Danuel House, Jae’Sean Tate, DeMarcus Cousins
Bench: Chris Clemons, Ben McLemore, David Nwaba, Jerian Grant, Bruno Caboclo, Mason Jones, Keyon Martin Jr, Kenny Wooten
Inactives: James Harden(Covid protocols), Sterling Brown(Covid protocols), Christian Wood(elbow), PJ Tucker(unclear)

*updated with news Christian Wood and PJ Tucker are also OUT. Updated starters with Coach Silas’s announcement.

What to Look For?

John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins: The two former college teammates, now NBA teammates, Wall and Cousins are finally healthy(for now). The two former All-Stars are both happy to be back, and both have spoke on how they are excited to show they can still play at a high level.

The Backup Point Guard Battle: The Rockets traded backup point guard Austin Rivers this off-season, which was likely a financial casualty more than anything. The Rockets will rely heavily on Chris Clemons who played in only 33 games last year at under 10mpg, The Rockets also signed veteran point guard Jerian Grant, whom Bulls fans should be familiar with. Jerian Grant played in only six games last season with the Washington Wizards. Both are not only fighting to make the team, but for a rotation spot.

Former Bulls Battle For Spot on Team: I spoke about it a little bit above. There are two former Bulls on this Rockets team, Jerian Grant and David Nwaba. Both are trying to make the Rockets team, along with Gerald Green.

Credit: Rockets.com

Top 3 Questions

Can the Rockets Have a Good Defense? One of the downfalls in the playoffs for this Rockets team was defense and rebounding. Reportedly Stephen Silas has practiced defense 80% of training camp. They also will play different than last year’s small ball team, players citing they have been switching a lot less in practice. For this Houston team to be great their defense will need to be good. I’m interested too see how quickly they are picking up what Silas wants them to do.

How Good is Christian Wood? The Rockets committed 3 years 41 million guaranteed to Christian Wood this offseason. Christian really banked on his hot finish with the Detroit Pistons last season, where he averaged 22 points and 10 rebounds the last 14 games. It will be interesting to see if he can carry that success into this season with the Houston Rockets.

How Much Will Harden’s Situation Be a Distraction? If you haven’t heard, James Harden has demanded a trade from Houston. Not only that, didn’t show up to the start of camp to attend a friend’s birthday party. There is a clear disconnect between Harden and the Rockets’ new direction. While Harden won’t play tonight, his situation is very real and the other players are aware of it. Not only aware are asked about it everyday. Hopefully the situation doesn’t affect the on court performance of the team.