Chicago Bulls: Lauri Markkanen proved mettle once again vs. Porzingis

(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /

In giving Kristaps Porginzis everything he could handle and more, Lauri Markkanen continues proving he can be special for the Chicago Bulls.

As with most rookies, Chicago Bulls forward Lauri Markkanen is battling through his ups and downs in his first NBA season.

But Saturday’s game against Kristaps Porzingis and the New York Knicks told everyone that he has special qualities as a player that you just can’t teach.

Sure, his stat line from the Bulls’ 104-102 win won’t necessarily jump out at anyone. He scored a solid 15 points on 7-of-14 shooting (just 1-of-5 from 3-point range) with eight rebounds. In fact, his last 10 games have seen him struggle a bit offensively, with his field goal percentage of 36.5% quite a bit lower than his season average of 40.1%.

However, as we’ve seen all season, he always finds ways to contribute even when he’s not scoring.

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Last weekend, it largely manifested in the strong, fearless defense he played against Porginzis, one of toughest players to stop in the NBA.

Against the Bulls, Porginzis managed 23 points on just 10-of-25 shooting and 1-of-7 from long range. And Markkanen was at the forefront of the effort against Porzingis, picking up two blocks against the 7’3” forward.

I have to wonder when the last time was that someone blocked two Porzingis jumpers in a game. My guess is once, if ever.

Just generally, Markkanen’s hustle has arguably been the most pleasant surprise about his game early in his career.

We knew he could shoot and find ways to score and knew that, at a lanky 7’0”, he could pull down some rebounds. But his passing and defense were some of the bigger questions people had about him coming out of the draft this year.

To be sure, he’s still a work in progress, but you have to like what you’ve seen so far. He shows every night that he belongs on this stage regardless of what he has to do on the floor.

And on top of that, we also know that the rookie can elevate his game against top competition. He refused to back down against Porzingis Saturday, and even earlier in the season, he put up 19 points on LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.

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Ladies and gentlemen, the Chicago Bulls definitely got themselves a good one in Markkanen. And with what we just saw on Saturday, it’s possible that his upside as a player may be greater than expected.