When Lauri Markkanen survived the NBA trade deadline still a member of the Chicago Bulls, it seemed a vote of confidence from both the coaching staff and front office.
He’s approaching restricted free agency, and was the subject of a number of trade rumors over the last few weeks, if not months. Markkanen and the Bulls failed to come to terms on a rookie extension back in December.
So, he’ll finish the season out in Chicago. But his role may be changing.
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A Change to the Starting Lineup
Head coach Billy Donovan rolled out yet another new-look starting five on Monday night against the Golden State Warriors, featuring Thaddeus Young in the power forward slot over Lauri Markkanen.
The 23-year old forward had previously started all 24 games he’d played this season, and 169 of his 170 career games played before that.
But with both Nikola Vucevic and Daniel Theis in tow as products of Chicago’s aggressive approach to the trade deadline, there was bound to be some sort of change to the Bulls’ rotation.
The result? An efficient outing for Markkanen, but a fourth-straight loss for his team. He put up 13 points and grabbed six rebounds in 22 minutes on the floor.
But the fourth-year forward struggled largely on the defensive end, failing to keep up with Golden State Warriors wing Kelly Oubre Jr., who finished the evening with 18 points and 11 rebounds.
Lauri Markkanen said all the right things following Monday’s loss, when speaking to reporters (via NBC Sports) postgame. The 23-year old held a mature mindset regarding his demotion to the second unit:
I’m a team guy. I understand it. And of course it’s a little — what was this, my second game off the bench? So the rhythm of the game is a little bit different. But I’ll do whatever I can.
After praising his approach to being moved to the second unit, head coach Billy Donovan justified the move by commenting on Markkanen’s versatility, particularly on the offensive end:
I just thought that Lauri is a guy because of his ability to shoot and his skill level who can play with any one of those three guys. And I thought from an experience standpoint and physicality standpoint throwing Thad in there because of the way Vooch can spread the floor, it allows those guys to kind of play off each other.
Minutes with Vucevic and Young were far from the issue, so coach isn’t off the mark there. But having to play without either of those two and/or Zach LaVine on the floor has been killer for the Bulls.
With the end goal obviously snapping this sluggish streak, Markkanen remains confident in his head coach’s decision making, and determined to help the team get back to winning basketball:
I know I can start and that’s how I’ve been playing. But I’m really not gonna do anything that’s gonna harm the team. I think we are all tired of losing and we’re just trying to get better at that. I mean, it hasn’t been working for us too well so we gotta change something.
Chicago is headed to Phoenix for what will be the third night of a four-game road trip. They’ll play the Suns on the second night of a back-to-back, rested, and in dire need of a win.
With just 27 games remaining, it’s likely each and every matchup will count towards their playoff hopes.
It was a change of scenery for Lauri Markkanen, coming off of the bench.
But it may be a view he’ll have to get used to, possibly for as long as the rest of this season.
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