No Mercy… Bulls Free Agency 2021 Part 3

Lauri Markkanen prepares to shoot two, after getting fouled in a game against the Minnesota Timberwolves.

The Finnisher is finished in Chicago. Lauri Markkanen was sent to the Cleveland Cavaliers as part of a three team trade that also involved the Portland Trailblazers. In the deal, the Bulls received Derrick Jones Jr and a lottery (top 14) protected 2022 first round draft pick from the Blazers, as well as a 2nd rounder from the Cavaliers. Cleveland gets Lauri Markkanen on a four year deal worth $67 Million, and Portland gets Larry Nance Jr from the Cavs.

According to K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago, the deal was initiated by the Portland Trailblazers, and originally centered around them sending Jones and the 1st rounder to the Bulls for Markkanen, but Arturas Karnisovas and the Bulls wanted more. With money for free agents dried up around the league, and Markkanen a restricted free agent, the Round Table were holding all the cards. They could afford to play hardball, and ask top dollar for Markkanen. They insisted Portland include an additional 2nd round pick in the deal. Portland refused, but Karnisovas and the Round Table stuck to their guns and told the Blazers to come back when they had the pick. So Portland went looking for a trade partner. Enter the Cleveland Caveliers. Eager to get off the money they owed Nance Jr, the Cavs were more than willing to include him and a 2nd rounder in a trade. In the end, everyone came out smelling like a winner. Portland came away with the best player in the transaction, Larry Nance Jr. Cleveland blosters their rebuild by taking a chance on Lauri’s high upside and potential as a stretch big, banking on a fresh start to return the Finnisher to his standout status. The Bulls got their hands on some much need wing depth and draft capital. It was a good trade all around.

A lot of fans have been calling this trade another “home run” transaction by the Round Table. Considering Lauri was pretty much set on not returning to the Bulls, it probably was. The added draft capital could become a part of a future trade, or make up for the potential loss of a draft pick from a negative outcome in the NBA’s ongoing tampering investigation. Whatever the reasoning behind demanding a 1st and 2nd round pick for Lauri Markkanen, once again Karnisovas ends up with what he wants.

After nearly 2 decades of the Bulls front office settling for their 2nd or 3rd offseason option, it’s shocking to see an executive repeatedly get what they want. Karnisovas, and the rest of the Round Table, have done an incredible job upgrading the talent on this team in less than two years on the job. Whatever you might think of how this team fits together, it is undeniable that they have improved their starting lineup from last season. Individually, at center, Nikola Vucevic is a better basketball player than Wendell Carter Jr at this point in their careers. At Power Forward, Patrick Williams has shown more skill and potential than Lauri Markkanen. DeMar DeRozan is an incredibly talented player, that is a much more natural fit at Small Forward than Patrick Williams. At Point Guard, Lonzo Ball is a far better creator and facilitator than Coby White at this time. And Zach LaVine at Shooting Guard, continues to improve his game season after season.

The one area of the Bulls roster that might prove weak is the bench. While Alex Caruso, Troy Brown Jr, Derrick Jones Jr, Javonte Green, and Tony Bradley are all solid basketball players, the Bulls are going to miss the play of Thaddeus Young, Daniel Theis, and maybe sometimes, the uneven play of Tomas Satoransky. The biggest need for this Bulls roster right now is another big that can protect the paint. Preferably a Power Forward to back up Williams and play some Center in small ball lineups. I think it would be a mistake if the Bulls looked to rookie Marko Simonovic to fill that role. He showed some skill and potential in Summer League, but I think both he and fellow rookie, Ayo Dosunmu, would mature faster spending a substantial amount of time with the Windy City Bulls in the G-League.

If the Bulls do look to fill that hole at Power Forward, there are some options left in free agency. Paul Milsap is the most popular veteran name being thrown around by Bulls fans, closely followed by LaMarcus Aldridge, who is looking to make a comeback to the NBA after a medically encouraged early retirement. Some other names the Bulls could consider, younger players like DJ Wilson or Jarred Vanderbilt, or the ancient one, Ersan Illyasova.

The Bulls could also try to add rim protection with a back up Center. A couple names to consider from the list of available Bigs might be, DeMarcus Cousins, Bismack Biyombo, and Ed Davis. Aron Baynes is also available, but he might miss the 2021-22 season with a neck injury so I’m not sure it would be worth it to pursue him.

Could the Round Table pull off another trade before the season starts? Anything is possible with Karnisovas, Marc Eversley, and company. With a fresh first rounder in their pocket, Coby White coming off the bench, and several weeks left before the first official practice, there is still the possibility that AKME aren’t done wheeling-and-dealing.

I’m sure there will be at least one more addition made by the Round Table before the offseason is over, and when they make the move, I’ll be sure to write about it. Until then, thanks for reading and GO BULLS!