With no first-round pick in the upcoming 2021 NBA Draft, the Chicago Bulls should be looking ahead to free agency, one of few avenues they’ll have to upgrade the roster.
But before they can do anything this summer, Arturas Karnisovas and the front office will first have to come to terms on Lauri Markkanen’s future.
The 24-year old forward and former lottery pick is headed for restricted free agency, and is expected to garner interest from at least a handful of teams.
Chicago made it clear that they wouldn’t let him walk for nothing when they kept him through the trade deadline, so don’t expect that to change.
Instead, look for the Bulls to explore sign-and-trade deals involving Markkanen, in hopes of receiving a point guard in return.
One team that could make sense for the fourth-year forward is the Boston Celtics.
Markkanen for Smart Swap?
The Boston Celtics are bound for some dramatic roster shifting, aside from what’s been done already.
Head coach Brad Stevens was relieved of his duties just after their elimination in the first-round in the playoffs, but instead of being let go altogether, was promoted to General Manager of the team in light of Danny Ainge’s resignation.
His first move was a swift strike, shipping point guard Kemba Walker out to the Oklahoma City Thunder in exchange for big man Al Horford.
Most expect Stevens to continue that aggressively natured roster reconstruction, as he’s pressured with the task of maximizing the primes of young forwards Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum.
One avenue through which to do so involves the team’s other point guard, Marcus Smart, who’s entering the last year of his four-year/$52-million contract.
The seventh-year guard holds court on the defensive end of the ball, where he’s often been dubbed ‘a bulldog defender’ by opponents and opposing team members.
Smart averaged 13.1 points, 5.7 assists, 3.5 rebounds, and 1.5 steals per game over 48 appearances for the Celtics this season.
Would Stevens, now at the head of roster decisions, entertain a swap of Lauri Markkanen for the two-time All-Defender?
The frameworks of a deal could look something like this:
- Boston Celtics receive Lauri Markkanen (sign-and-trade), Tomas Satoransky.
- Chicago Bulls receive Marcus Smart.
Satoransky is coming off a strong season serving as lead guard off the bench for the Bulls, where he averaged 7.7 points and 4.7 assists per game.
Analyst: Trade for Smart Would ‘Rescue’ Zach LaVine
Towards the end of May, Bleacher Report’s Andy Bailey suggested a Chicago Bulls trade for Marcus Smart in a piece titled Trades to Rescue Superstars Who Missed the NBA Playoffs.
But he suggested they send second-year guard Coby White and a future (2025) first-round pick to the Boston Celtics, not Lauri Markkanen or Tomas Satoransky.
Regardless, his justification for the deal still rings true. Smart would be a perfect backcourt partner for Bulls’ All-Star guard Zach LaVine:
For the Chicago Bulls, a guard who doesn’t dominate the ball (Zach LaVine and Nikola Vucevic will control the offense) and can defend the opposition’s toughest perimeter assignment makes a ton of sense.
And as NBC Sports’ Darren Hartwell wrote months ago, Markkanen makes sense for a Celtics team that was in search of ‘shooting with size’ at this year’s trade deadline.
Whether it would take additional incentive on either side to strike a deal is unclear.
But both Lauri Markkanen and Marcus Smart could be changing teams this summer, so a deal that swaps the two is worth at least exploring for both sides.
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