Chicago Bulls: The Lauri Markkanen contract conundrum

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

The Chicago Bulls have until December 21st to decide whether or not Lauri Markkanen deserves an extension on his rookie contract.

To extend or not to extend, that is the question for the Chicago Bulls.

Whether ’tis nobler…

No, I’m not finishing that. However, the question of extending Lauri Markkanen is a prevalent one, and it falls on Bulls executives Arturas Karnisovas and Marc Eversley.

The Bulls and the rest of the NBA were informed that the last day to extend rookie contracts would be December 21st, the day before 2020 opening night, and that puts the new front office in a precarious situation.

Markkanen is in the last year of his rookie deal (save for a qualifying fifth-year option if he isn’t extended) and is yet to perform consistently enough to earn a massive deal that, not long ago, was pretty much his for the taking.

Anybody else remember that February? That was the Lauri Markkanen that was in the conversation to receive a max extension when the time came.

That first game of the season where he put up 35 and 17; what happened to that guy?

This year, Lauri was a ghost in the Boylen offense outside of that first game, just wandering out on the perimeter and shooting a subpar percentage from deep to compliment his career-low numbers in scoring, rebounding and nearly everything else.

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On top of all of the inconsistent play is his lack of availability. The former first-round selection has yet to play a complete 82 game season, only playing in 170 of a possible 229 games due to a number of injuries.

Beyond that, Markkanen’s defensive capabilities have been nonexistent. His ability to guard smaller guards and wings is lacking, opposing bigs usually own him in the paint, and those issues are exaggerated when he isn’t doing anything offensively.

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Karnisovas and company seem high on Markkanen though, with reports surfacing that he was more of an untouchable than his frontcourt mate in Wendell Carter Jr.

There is hope that Markkanen will actually see his breakthrough (that should have happened last year) in the new offense.

His talent is apparent, and hopefully, Donovan implementing a more pick-and-roll focused approach to the offense will help Markkanen find his spots.

The other aspect of Markkanen’s game that has yet to be fully expressed is his fluid athleticism.

Using his size and power along with his leaping ability should make him more of a dominant player inside the arc than we have seen (WHERE WAS THAT DRAG-STEP MOVE LAST YEAR?).

We’ve seen the dunks in pregame warm-ups, but I would give my car to see Lauri drive and put in on someone’s head.

This year, it is crucial that Markkanen takes the next step in his game. Improving as a passer and a defender should be added to the realistic expectation that he should at least be a 20-10 player. That’s what is going to get him the big bucks.

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Markkanen is a unique talent with his size and shooting, but he has yet to prove himself. Should Karnisovas take the gamble on extending him before the deadline or risk losing him to another team’s offer in restricted free agency?