Chicago Bulls: 3 players with better upside after Jim Boylen’s departure

Chicago Bulls (Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images)
Chicago Bulls (Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images) /
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Chicago Bulls, Lauri Markkanen
(Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images) /

1. Lauri Markkanen

Probably the most obvious candidate to get better simply by Boylen leaving, young power forward Lauri Markkanen should pick up where he left off after his impressive sophomore campaign.

After his opening night explosion of 35 points and 17 rebounds, the Finnisher looked like he was out for blood. Markkanen dominated the paint in the first game of the season and though the Bulls ultimately ended up losing that game against the Charlotte Hornets, surely that was a fluke.

I mean, teams don’t just set franchise records in 3-pointers every night, and let’s not forget that Lauri himself was pretty dry from distance and Zach LaVine only had 16 points off 17 shots.

Surely, the next game against the Memphis Grizzlies would see both Markkanen and LaVine return to their February 2019 form. Remember now, Jim Boylen said the goal would be a playoff spot.


The Bulls did win that Grizzlies game and LaVine did score 37 points but Markkanen crashed. Nine points on 15 shots, including just 1 of 10 from downtown highlighted a completely different player fans had seen just one game earlier.

Lauri’s paint presence was all but gone and no one would have suspected that Memphis would serve as the starting point for the season-long regression of the former first-rounder.

The rest of the season until the halt of play in March looked similar to Markkanen’s awful showing against the Grizzlies. The Bulls missed the playoffs entirely and couldn’t even be a part of the 22-team expansion bubble happening in Orlando.

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Once missing a total of 15 games due to injury was a part of Markkanen’s year, the Bulls should have just stopped and waited until next year. The year-end results for the Finnish big man were below almost every category from the year prior, including but not limited to Field Goals Attempted (11.8), 3-point percentage (34.4) and points-per-game (14.4).

One of the most frustrating parts of the year was how Jim Boylen was deploying Markkanen in the offense, seemingly forcing the seven-footer to hover around the perimeter and shoot threes.

Instead of utilizing the pick-and-roll with LaVine to get off that sweet drag-step or driving the lane himself, Markkanen looked like a shell of what he once was on offense which in turn contributed to his being even more of a liability on defense.

In the lockerroom, Markkanen looked disheartened all season long and not just because of the constant losing. Fans and media members alike could tell that he was miserable in his role in Chicago, which then snowballed into a rumor of Lauri wanting out if stuff didn’t change and quickly.

We should all look for that narrative to dissipate with Boylen now gone. Arturas Karnisovas prides himself on player development and is one of the few people who might be able to not only “fix” Lauri but make him the best player he can be.

With AK and Eversley leading what they call a “player’s first” movement in Chicago, the next Bulls coach’s future could be riding heavily on what the new plan is with Lauri Markkanen.

The firing of Boylen also comes at a great time for Markkanen, as this is the last year of his rookie contract. If he balls out, a giant contract could be headed his way either from the Bulls or some other team trying to poke at his impending restricted free agency.

All eyes on Lauri for next season!