The Bulls and Lauri Markkanen failed to agree on a contract extension. Markkanen, as a result, is at the center of trade speculation.
Chicago could look to deal Markkanen before the trade deadline. Teams will still believe in his upside after earning All-Rookie honors just a few seasons ago. He’s looked back to near that level in 2020/21, too, scoring 18.5 per game, and recording comfortably a career high in field goal percentage.
The Bulls could extend Markkanen and see how this triumvirate works out next season. With how he’s playing, though, they might be tempted to swing a trade before the deadline if they are already suffering serious doubts about that frontcourt.
Markkanen’s long-term position is unclear. Similar to John Collins and Julius Randle, the Finn is somewhere between a four and a five. He’s fine as a four on offense, but he’s better as a stretch five. Defense is less clear. He’s not mobile enough to matchup with Jayson Tatum and other mobile power forwards. At the five, he’s not strong enough to cope with Joel Embiid or Bam Adebayo.
A genuine seven-footer who can shoot like that is still going to have a market. Teams with other switchable defenders will find it easier to fit Markkanen in on that end. He can play the five alongside elite defensive fours.
The frontcourt trade market could be crowded. Collins and Randle might both be available. The Bulls might hold onto Markkanen in the hope of a playoff spot. If they do look to deal him before the deadline, though, here are a few teams who could be interested.
Markkanen landing spots
With clear upside, a lot of front offices would be open to a Markkanen trade.
The Golden State Warriors are mentioned in every trade rumor right now. There’s good reason, too. Golden State owns its upcoming pick and Minnesota’s. They have tradeable contracts, and the front office has been proactive since Kevin Durant departed. Markkanen is a nice fit there, too. He could play the five on offense with Draymond Green guarding centers or he can slot in as the four next to James Wiseman against bigger frontcourts.
Miami is an interesting option here. The Heat are short on picks, but Markkanen would look great next to Adebayo. The Heat are a bit small, and they have a berth at the four after letting Jae Crowder walk in free agency. Chicago isn’t going to get Tyler Herro or Duncan Robinson, but the Heat have salaries to make a trade work. A Robinson, Jimmy Butler, Adebayo, Markkanen line-up with Herro or Goran Dragic would be very hard to stop. Adebayo, like Green, makes Markkanen’s life easier on the defensive end.
The Spurs have built a good young core. Jakob Poeltl is their center of the future. Dejounte Murray, Devin Vassell, Derrick White, Lonnie Walker and Keldon Johnson are set to be productive players for a long time. Could the Spurs work a trade around one of their expiring salaries for Markkanen? He would be okay alongside Poeltl and could play the five in smaller line-ups with Johnson at the four.
Utah is potentially a good spot, too. They would have to send multiple players as salary filler in a possible trade, but Markkanen could be a good upside swing for the new owners to take. Big line-ups with Bojan Bogdanovic at the three will have plenty of shooting. Markkanen could play the five in difficult matchups for Gobert.