The dysfunction in Chicago could benefit the San Antonio Spurs if they’re able to steal Lauri Markkanen away from the Windy City
As San Antonio Spurs fans we take the stability and tight-lipped nature of the franchise for granted. It can make for an occasionally dull franchise to cover, but it’s part of the reason the Spurs have been able to be so successful for so long. The Chicago Bulls are following a different path.
The last few years have been tough for the once great franchise. Front office blunders, disagreements between the coaching staff and players, and lots of losing have been the recent themes. It was out of the Spurs norm when Dejounte Murray publically called for more playing time with Derrick White. Can you imagine a player cussing out Gregg Popovich mid-game? Couldn’t be our franchise.
Thankfully, the turmoil in Chicago can ultimately benefit the Spurs. Turns out consistent losing and disagreeing with your head coach doesn’t lead to young players wanting to stick around. After being drafted with the seventh pick in the 2017 draft, Lauri Markkanen‘s time in the Windy City might be coming to an end.
Joe Cowley with the Chicago Sun-Times recently reported that if there are no serious changes made in the Bulls organization this summer, Markkanen could start looking for his next team. A revelationary but not entirely surprising development given all of the rumors about how Bulls players have clashed with head coach Jim Boylen.
According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the Bulls have already started a search process to bring in another basketball authority. He named several front-office officials with impressive resumes who could be tapped to come to lead Chicago’s basketball decision making.
Whether or not that would be enough to convince Markkanen to remain patient with an organization that has given him little reason to do so thus far is another question. No matter who the Bulls potentially hire, once someone is convinced their time is up it’s hard to get them to change their mind.
The San Antonio Spurs should be hopping on the phone right now to gauge Chicago’s asking price for the 7-foot Finnish big man. He’s been hampered by injuries and has limitations on defense but Markkanen would give the Spurs a much needed versatile offensive big man to pair with their guards. The potential he has calls for an exploratory conversation at the very least.
After an impressive first two seasons in the league, Markkanen took a step back this year. But there’s a reason for that and the blame doesn’t fall solely on his shoulders. The Bulls became Zach LaVine‘s team this year and it’s unclear what his ascension will mean for Markkanen’s role in the offense.
Add in promising rookie Coby White and you can quickly see a scenario in which Lauri goes from being a primary scorer to a third option at best. With Wendell Carter Jr. and a likely top-ten pick in the 2020 NBA draft still to be considered, Markkanen could be the odd man out in Chicago in a matter of months.
Maybe he’s seen the writing on the wall and simply wants to get ahead of what’s coming. In any case, he would fit well with the Spurs. We saw what kind of options opened up for the Spurs offense when LaMarcus Aldridge started popping out behind the 3-point line, Markkanen can fill the same role.
A career 35.6 percent shooter from deep, Markkanen would immediately give the Spurs a much needed 3-point weapon. He works well inside too, he’s made 65 percent of his shots near the rime over the past three seasons.
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There are worries about his durability and defensive ability. He missed time with pelvic injury this season and was limited to just 52 games last year. The most he’s ever played in a year was his rookie season when he suited up for 68 games.
He’s not a particularly imposing rim protector and doesn’t record many blocks. But his limitations on defense could be covered by the big men already on the Spurs roster. Jakob Poeltl can be one of the better defensive bigs in the league and LaMarcus Aldridge is no slouch either.
Pairing either one of them with Markkanen would give San Antonio the floor spacing they need for their guards to operate efficiently without sacrificing too much at the rim.
San Antonio has the assets to make this a possibility. Depending on who the Bulls bring in to fix the mess that they’ve made, the new hire could want to go for more of a fresh start than working with what they’ve got now. If that’s the case, San Antonio’s 2020 draft pick could be a real difference-maker.
It would be hard to part with the franchises’ highest draft pick since Tim Duncan but the Spurs would have to consider it. They’d have to consider who may be on the board when they’re up, is that player likely to end up being better than Markkanen? Do they fit better with what the long term vision of the team is? If the answer is no then there would be little reason not to make a deal.
It might not amount to anything but if they play their cards right the San Antonio Spurs can use the situation in Chicago to their advantage. At the very least they should be asking what it would take to bring the former top-ten pick to the Alamo City.