Lauri Markkanen is out the rest of this season with a what is being called an “illness”. He played only the 1st half of last Tuesday’s game in Canada against the Toronto Raptors before being taken to the hospital with an accelerated heart rate. Markkanen stayed at the hospital overnight for observation, and returned to Chicago on Wednesday. Out of precaution, the Bulls have decided to keep Lauri out of the final 5 games of the season. He is allowed to take part in the non-contact portions of practice, and he is traveling with the team for the remainder of the season, but he is wearing a monitor and the medical staff is keeping a watchful eye on his readings.
UPDATE: Lauri Markkanen has been undergoing tests to determine the cause of an episode of a rapid heart rate & fatigue during the game in Toronto. Additional testing has been recommended and Markkanen will not return for the remainder of the season.
— Chicago Bulls (@chicagobulls) March 28, 2019
Markkanen is optimistic that everything is alright and is just disappointed that he won’t be able to finish the season. “… I took a lot of pride even if I had something small, just playing through it and not missing anymore games. It’s just unfortunate. I know health is the most important. I’m just frustrated that I can’t play, but it is what it is.” Said Markkanen in an interview with Sam Smith of chicagobulls.com. All the Bulls and Markkanen can do is continue to monitor his heart and hope for the best.
Appreciate all the support #BullsNation. I’m looking forward to supporting the team for the rest of the season, putting in the work this summer and coming back better than ever for year 3! pic.twitter.com/0fD0FUVjAR
— Lauri Markkanen (@MarkkanenLauri) March 30, 2019
Lauri joins rookies Wendell Carter Jr (thumb) and Chandler Hutchison (toe), as well as veteran Denzel Valentine (ankle), on the “Done for the Year” list. Kris Dunn (Back), Zach LaVine (thigh/knee), and Otto Porter Jr (shoulder) are all day-to-day with their injuries.
With all 5 starters now injured, the Bulls are starting to look more and more like Robin Lopez and the Windy City Bulls. G-League 2-way players Brandon Sampson and Rawle Alkins have both been added to the rotation, and the Bulls also signed Walter Lemon Jr for the rest of the season. Lemon is a point guard for the Windy City Bulls, and he was the main reason that the Bulls G-League team made it to the playoffs. He played extended minutes for the Chicago Bulls in last night’s loss to the Toronto Raptors and acquitted himself well. But I’m getting ahead of myself, let’s take it back a step or two and look at an overview of the week…
The Bulls went 0-3 this week with two losses to the Raptors sandwiching a loss to the Portland Trailblazers. All three of the games were awful. They were so awful that I confess I didn’t watch the 2nd half of Tuesday’s (Raptors 112, Bulls 103) or Wednesday’s (Blazers 118, Bulls 98) games. There was nothing worth watching. Saturday’s loss to Toronto (124-101) was slightly different because it featured the aforementioned Walter Lemon Jr. The Lemon signing was not unexpected. He had been playing so well in the G-League that it was rumored (even as early as a week after the All-Star break) he would be brought up in order to challenge Kris Dunn for minutes at point guard. So there was some hype behind Lemon and his contract.
In yesterday’s game against Toronto, Lemon showed there might be something to the hype.
Even though he came off the bench, he led the Bulls in points scored (19), assists (6), and steals (4). He added 4 rebounds and a blocked shot to the stat line, while only turning the ball over once in his 31 minutes of play. It was a pretty good Chicago Bulls debut for Walter Lemon.
Some things I noticed about him from his one game with the Bulls; Lemon has good court vision and is a willing passer. He wasn’t settling for jumpers, preferring instead to drive the lane and finish with his left hand at the rim or dump the ball off to a teammate for an open look at the basket. While not a great defender, Lemon did challenge opponents on that end of the floor, forcing turnovers and rotating well on switches. All in all, he looked good. This is a big chance for him to show what he can do at the NBA level, and I expect him to take full advantage of his opportunity.
Looking at the week ahead, the Bulls have three games: Monday they face off against the Knicks in New York, Wednesday they finish the season series against the Washington Wizards in D.C., and on Saturday they return to Chicago to take on the Philadelphia ‘76ers. I’m going out on a limb and predicting a Bulls victory against the Knicks. If the Bulls do beat the Knicks, it will snap their current 4 game losing streak. At this point in the season it’s highly unlikely that the Bulls will move up or down in the Tank standings, they seemed locked in to the 4th worst record in the league, so a win against New York shouldn’t be too abhorrent, even to the most ardent of Tankers.
The Worst Records in the NBA:
1. New York Knicks 14-62 .184
2. Phoenix Suns 17-60 .221
3. Cleveland Cavaliers 19-58 .247
4. Chicago Bulls 21-56 .273
5. Atlanta Hawks 27-49 .355
MVP of the Week: The Bench
In particular, Wayne Selden, Shaquille Harrison, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot and Walter Lemon Jr, who all contributed solid numbers over the course of the week. Selden and Harrison have had to step into starting positions with all the injuries to the starters, and they have both played hard. All four of these guys continue to plug away each game, never giving up, and competing no matter how out of reach it might be. They are playing for their NBA careers, and they are doing it unselfishly, within the team concept, without the individual stat hunting so commonly seen at the finish of a dead-end season. Hopefully, they keep up the unselfish effort and carve out enough of a reputation to stay in the league.
Stat of the Week: 25.7% chance the Bulls will get the 6th pick in the NBA Draft.
If the Bulls keep the 4th worst record in the NBA they will be guaranteed a top 8 pick in the upcoming draft. That’s good. What’s not so good is that they will most likely be picking 6th overall on draft night. The second most likely scenario has them picking 7th overall. According to Tankathon.com, the world’s leading source on all things NBA Draft, the breakdown of the Bulls pick odds looks like this…
Sadly, this means that 2 teams with records better than the Bulls are likely to leapfrog their way into a top 4 pick. There is also a 16.7% chance that 3 teams move ahead of the Bulls, pushing them to that all too familiar 7th draft slot. With the upcoming draft class appearing to be light on superstars, this could be devastating for the rebuilding Bulls. They need a top 4 pick, and as of now, the odds are not in their favor.
Let’s finish the week remembering that the Bulls have won some games this season, and that some of the players responsible for those wins are still on the active roster…
Win Share Leaders: Chasing Bobby Portis (3.5)
1. Ryan Arcidiacono 3.3
2. Zach LaVine 2.9
3. Lauri Markkanen 2.8