The Chicago Bulls less-than-stellar situation of failing at tanking hasn’t clouded some clear conclusions.
Lauri Markkanen is clearly the Bulls’ top player remaining with the loss of Zach Lavine and Kris Dunn for the year. But that’s not just an afterthought. He might possibly have the highest ceiling out of the three. And he also could, or rather, should be the face of the franchise moving forward.
Those sentiments aren’t because he broke Damian Lillard‘s record as the fastest player to hit 100 treys. It has little to do with his stellar play in the Garden going for 33 points and 10 rebounds. And it’s not just because of his recent game against the Wizards scoring 23 points in 25 minutes.
It’s because Lauri hasn’t yet hit his stride in fully acclimating himself to his surroundings. The young star has faced a lot in a short period of time. International play, getting used to teammates, and carrying the burden of his draft position could have been overwhelming. Not to mention he is going through becoming a father for the first time.
Admittedly, no one thought the rookie would produce at this rate. He was third on the depth chart behind Nikola Mirotic and Bobby Portis. But the incident between Portis and Mirotic that resulted in a broken face for Mirotic opened a door for Markkanen. And he hasn’t looked back since.
The team immediately took notice of his promising skill set.
“Markkanen is as versatile a guy as I’ve seen,’’ Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “He’s gotten better as the year has gone on. For a 20-year-old kid who has been in the States for about two years, the poise and composure he plays with shows how special a player he’ll be when it’s all said and done.’’
For all the accolades he has received, Markkanen knows he must improve. He is more than willing to accept the challenge of getting better. He even promised to not cut his hair until the Bulls are back in the playoffs.
This off-season will prove crucial not only for him but in helping right the direction of this team. Hopefully, as his frame continues to fill out, he’ll prove ready to back his words up during his sophomore year.