Lauri Markkanen just turned 23 last week and that means assuming next season starts on time, it will be his Jordan season. That is the least of his concerns as he has taken a step backward before the season was interrupted due to COVID-19.
Markkanen has appeared in 50 games in the current season, he is averaging 14.7 points a game, 6.3 rebounds, field goal attempts 11.8 and an overall shooting efficiency of 45.8 percent. All of these stats are career lows despite starting the season off with a 35-point, 17-rebound and shooting 68% from the floor against the Charlotte Hornets. However, after that game, he has not had one game with 20 or more field goal attempts and that is part of the reason why he has regressed. To be successful in basketball, you need to take chances and be aggressive, that is a trait that the elites of today and yesterday have brought to the table.
Injuries have played a role in Markkanen’s regression. He missed more than a month with stress in his right pelvis and did not play from January 22 to March 4. He returned to play 4 games before the NBA season was suspended and averaged just under 12 points a game.
Coaching influenced the lack of production as the Bulls’ overall offense was second to last in the entire NBA. According to Cleaning the Glass Metrics, his defensive rebounding rate plummeted from the 83rd percentile in his rookie season to 41st percentile in 2019-2020. His defensive woes continued as his on the ball defensive took a step south and his ability to take advantage of mismatches on the other end of the court. It is clear that he has not been as aggressive as he has shown in the past as a 7-footer, Markkanen has the ability to be a force inside and outside. When you have a 7 footer who can play inside and be a threat from downtown, that is a big strength to any team but especially a team that doesn’t have the offense to outscore many opponents.
As the Bulls have hired a new VP of basketball operations and a new general manager, the attention will be focused on the front office as he is eligible for an extension in July, that may move the date back with COVID-19. The question is will the Bulls give Markkanen a big contract as his side will ask for but has this season made it difficult to convince the front office to agree upon a long-term contract with huge money? Is Markkanen more of the player from last season or the current one?
It’s possible last season was an aberration and the same can be said for 2019-2020 reversed, but an accurate indicator of his performance and potential to 2018-2019. It’s possible that the talk around the team from the outside has somewhat played a role in his underperformance, but if his camp and the Bulls can agree to a long-term deal sooner than later, the level of stress around the team should drop.
Markkanen just turned 23, undoubtedly he saw the Last Dance, let’s hope that helps motivate his game assuming a deal is reached. He is too good to put up an effort level grade of a C on the court.