Should the New York Knicks be interested in Chicago Bulls stretch forward Lauri Markkanen?
New York Knicks president Leon Rose is set to turn over the current roster in trying to build a more competitive team for recently-hired head coach Tom Thibodeau. Could Chicago Bulls forward Lauri Markkanen be part of that solution?
Well, we know the Knicks are in desperate need of shooting. We also know they have done their homework on Markkanen’s teammate Zach LaVine.
A new report by the Chicago Sun-Times indicates that some teams are “zeroing in” on several Bulls players besides LaVine, including Markkanen and Wendell Carter Jr.
While the report notes talks haven’t become anything close to serious, Markkanen’s name has been highlighted as a potential trade target after it was revealed back in April that he was unhappy with coach Jim Boylen (as is everyone else on that team).
Should the Knicks consider Lauri Markkanen as a trade target?
While we don’t know if the Knicks are one of the teams calling the Bulls about Markkanen’s availability, you would have to assume that if they are monitoring the LaVine situation, they are at least keeping a passive eye on the entire Bulls roster in case something materializes of interest to them.
Markkanen might not have been happy in Chicago, but the team did play 2.3 points better with him on the court this season, after playing five points better in 2018-19.
The seven-foot shooting big man attempted four less shots per game this season, all coming from a reduction in mid-range shots. His three-point attempts remained steady at 6.3 per game (vs 6.4 in 2018-19) due to an emphasis in perimeter shooting under Boylen, something Markkanen reportedly didn’t like.
The 23-year-old cut his attempts from mid-range in half this past season compared to his sophomore campaign. The most drastic change in his shot profile coming from the dreaded “long twos” which he attempted only 3% of the time this year compared to 10% last season.
He also was deadly from corner threes, an area Tom Thibodeau has hinted at being a priority under his lead.
For analytically-minded basketball fans, it sounds like Markkanen improved his game by emphasizing the efficiency of threes over twos, but the young forward apparently didn’t feel comfortable in Boylen’s offensive system.
Markkanen is entering the final year of his rookie scale contract before he potentially becomes a restricted free agent. As the Knicks look to find the perfect complement to Mitchell Robinson in the frontcourt, a power forward who can leak out to the perimeter and give Robinson room to work inside would be an ideal fit.
The Knicks have Julius Randle signed through 2021-22, but forwards Bobby Portis and Taj Gibson are on non-guaranteed deals for next season.
Thibodeau will surely look to turn the Knicks into defensive-minded team under his watch, something Markkanen doesn’t particularly help. Opponents shot 3.3% better when defended by the tall forward relative to their normal shooting performance, mostly carving up Markkanen inside. Thibs would need to surround him with the right players to make a defensive unit work that can then capitalize on his offensive production.
If Leon Rose can negotiate a “change of scenery” type deal in exchanging a young player (i.e. Kevin Knox) for another young player in Markkanen, it is definitely worth exploring. The problem is the price would likely be higher than that, requiring the Knicks to dip into some of their draft capital.
As Knicks fans consider the possibility of the team trading for LaVine, Markkanen is another player to keep an eye on.