K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago reported last week that Lauri Markkanen is unlikely to sign a contract extension this offseason. He is unlikely to even receive an offer from the front office when the offseason officially begins.
“I think given that the new regime likely is viewing 2020-21 as a see-what-we’ve-got season, it’s more likely than not that no extension is reached. Then, you negotiate again in 2021 depending on how Markkanen fared,” Johnson said on the Bulls mailbag for NBC Sports Chicago.
This strategy backfired on the Bulls when Jimmy Butler was on the team, however, it is a good issue to have if a player with any doubt can flourish into super-star status like Butler did in his days with the Bulls.
What are the long-term implications? For now, the focus has to be on a few things. First, he needs to touch the ball more consistently. In Markkanen’s first two seasons, he averaged close to 70 touches per game, that number plummeted to 45 a game in the most recent season. Jim Boylen’s first full season as head coach relegated Markkanen to race to the three-point line and wait for someone to pass it to him. The Bulls averaged 35 three-point shots but only shot at a rate of 34 percent. The Bulls simply did not have the talent to run a five-out system and the firepower to use it effectively.
Bottom line is with the team the Bulls have, one or two injuries to key players put the team at a major scoring disadvantage in a league that is seeing more scoring. Markkanen needs to be more aggressive to drive to the rim and finish more effectively. It is also true that when you take a Markkanen off the team via injury, the scoring issues show even more. That is reflective of a front office that put too much emphasis on one or two players to account for a high percentage of scoring. Having two or three prolific scorers are essential to be competitive in today’s NBA and when one of those scorers is underperforming or injured, the aftermath is focused on the top scorers.
“I think I can do a lot of good things besides just shoot 3,” Markkanen said. “Haven’t really been able to do that lately. Just have to figure out the way I can attack the rim more and get to the free throw line.”