The Chicago Bulls are currently 7-10 near their quarter mark of the 2020-2021 NBA season. They are currently the 10th seed in the Eastern Conference.
The Bulls reformed their organization this offseason with new management, coaching, and player additions. They are a brand new organization with the hopes of becoming a playoff-caliber team again.
Since the Bulls have a new front office, rumors of trading away the Bulls’ best assets have surfaced for a full restructure of the team. Trading away their two best players, Zach Lavine and Lauri Markkanen, is not the best idea.
Zach Lavine had a rough start with the Bulls in the 2016-2017 season when he was traded to them, along with other commodities, for Jimmy Butler. In 24 games, Lavine averaged 16.7 points, 3.9 rebounds, and three assists per game. Lavine shot a catastrophic 38.3% from the field, 34.1% from beyond the three-point range, and 81.3% from the free-throw line. He tore his ACL against the Detroit Pistons, ending his first season with the Bulls.
Now, three seasons later under new head coach Billy Donovan, Lavine is averaging career highs across the board. He is averaging 27 points (6th in NBA), 5.2 rebounds, and 5.3 assists on 35.6 minutes per game. Lavine is shooting 50.2% from the field, 39.7% from behind the arc, and 87.6 from the charity stripe. His efficiency has been off the charts counter to his past seasons, shooting a 59.4% effective field goal percentage and recording a 2.7 box plus/minus this year.
Lavine still withholds his struggles on defense, but he is improving. He has never recorded a positive defensive box plus/minus (DBPM) in his career. This season, he has recorded a -0.8 DBPM, which is tied for the best in his career. He is able to defend high-caliber players on the floor, but will not always be assigned to them.
Lavine’s most outstanding contribution is offensively and leading the team. While his plus/minus on the floor is -7.5, the team is -17.6 when he is not on the floor. Lavine’s presence on the floor is extremely effective and worthy to the team.
Lavine is currently taking up $19.5 million per year in his contract. Next season will be the final year on his contract, but he may be wanting a raise sooner rather than later– which the Bulls could afford with the fourth-most projected cap space next offseason. The top 10 scorers in the NBA average a $32.7 million salary, and Lavine averages the sixth-most points per game in the NBA.
Verdict? Keep him.
Lavine should be an Eastern Conference all-star this year and his dedication to the Bulls is unparalleled. Lavine has been here through tremendous lows of the Bulls’ organization and he deserves to be kept, especially since he is the Bulls’ most valuable asset.
Lauri Markkanen is going into his fourth year in the NBA and with the Chicago Bulls. Markkanen has certainly had his struggles with the Bulls. However, some of them are warranted.
Markkanen seriously struggled under Jim Boylen — the Chicago Bulls head coach from 2018-2020. Last season, Markkanen averaged 14.7 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 1.5 assists with the Bulls in his third season. He shot 42.5% from the field, 34.4% from deep, and 82.4% from the line. Tough year.
The season before, Markkanen averaged 18.7 points, nine rebounds, and 1.4 assists per game with the Bulls. Boylen’s insistence on making Lauri run fast breaks and create shots for himself was detrimental to his confidence.
Now, under Billy Donovan, Markkanen is back to averaging 18.5 points, 6.5 rebounds, and one assist per game. He is shooting 48.5% from the field, 37.7% from distance, and 83.8% from the free-throw line.
While Markkanen is back to his old ways on offense, he needs help with interior defense. He, like Lavine, has never recorded a positive DBPM in his career.
Markkanen also carries a concerning -0.1 overall box plus/minus with the Bulls this season. Usually, guys who are not recording positive BPMs are solid bench players, not starters.
Markkanen is currently playing the final year of his rookie deal with the Bulls. He will have made over $20 million in the course of his four-year rookie contract with the Bulls. He qualified for an extension this past offseason but was not granted the deal from the Bulls.
“I really want to be here for the long term. So I’m putting some pressure on my agent to get it done,” said Lauri Markkanen, via Erick Montoya on NBA Twitter.
Reportedly, the deal was never close and unable to be closed between the two parties. President Arturas Karnisovas is not ready to retain the young power forward quite yet.
What’s the verdict? Debatable, but he might be traded if he cannot prove he can be a star.
Lauri Markkanen can do a lot of things other players cannot. He is a 7’0” forward that can shoot the ball extremely well in the NBA. But, his aggression and defensive abilities are questionable for a Bulls team that already lacks interior defense (15th in opponent points in the paint) and gives up 118.2 points per game (28th).
Lauri Markkanen becomes a restricted free agent this off-season. Decisions about his future will have to come before the trade deadline (March 25). If they want to cut ties, the Bulls should trade him to get back some value. Or, they will have to negotiate a reasonable contract to keep him on for the future.