Bulls Season Highlights: Lauri Markkanen
*65 game season
Entering his third NBA season, Lauri Markkanen was poised to take a leap forward in his development. After all, that’s what the Finland-native did going from his rookie year to his sophomore year as he improved his numbers nearly across the board despite dealing with injuries. Lauri’s 2019-2020 production looked more like his rookie season.
Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations Arturas Karnisovas when asked about Markkanen's regression season: "We've spoken to Lauri numerous times. He's been very patient, stayed in the market (Chicago). His family is now with him. He's eager to get back to the gym and improve. He was disappointed obviously by the overall result. Every player wants to win. He's about winning as well. Our objective is to get the best version of Lauri next year. We agreed in conversations that this is our objective and we're going to try to do it. Besides that, I'll look forward to meeting him face to face. Before accountability, I have to have a personal relationship with him. We'll set the expectations, which are pretty high. We're going to strive to get better. Same thing with Lauri. We have a lot of time this offseason. We're going to put a plan together for him."
There’s no doubt Lauri is talented and more than capable of being the No. 2 option on offense. Bulls fans have seen in 170 career games that Markkanen’s ability to shoot the basketball and finish aggressively in the paint with his 7-foot-tall frame are some of the unique traits that make him special. Karnisovas has a history of being on a Nuggets staff that prioritized player development, which was evident watching the growth of Denver’s young players (and particularly, seeing center Nikola Jokic’s game blossom). Markkanen should be expected to bounce back in a big way.
Lauri Markkanen scores 35 points against the Charlotte Hornets in the Bulls season opener.
Let’s take a look a couple of Lauri’s notable individual performances this season:
OCTOBER 23, 2019 AT CHARLOTTE (HORNETS 126, BULLS 125)
Markkanen Stat Line: 35 points (13-25 FG), 17 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal
In the Bulls first game of the season, Markkanen balled out and arguably looked like the best player on the floor. He scored 35 points, while adding 17 boards, becoming the first Bulls player to drop 35 in a season-opener since Michael Jordan did it in 1995. Lauri was aggressive from the jump, totaling 12 points in the first quarter alone. He did most of his damage close to the rim, hitting eleven of his shots inside nine-feet or less. Charlotte came away with the narrow victory, hitting 23 three-pointers which set an NBA record for most threes in a season-opener. But Markkanen’s performance showed some of the potential he is capable of achieving on a more consistent basis.
DECEMBER 11, 2019 VS ATLANTA (BULLS 136, HAWKS 102)
Markkanen: 22 points (8-9 FG), 4 rebounds, 1 block
In perhaps Chicago’s best all-around game of the season, the Bulls cruised to a victory over the Hawks in which Zach LaVine had a stellar night - scoring 35 points in only three quarters. But Markkanen was efficient as well, dropping 22 points on nine field goal attempts in 23 minutes. Lauri showed an all-around offensive game - hitting outside shots (2 for 3 from behind the arc), crashing the boards for a couple of second-chance dunks, and showing a soft touch through traffic by scoring on defenders in the paint. The Bulls were clicking on all cylinders offensively as the team shot 57% from the field and had 32 assists.
DECEMBER 18, 2019 AT WASHINGTON (BULLS 110, WIZARDS 109 OT)
Markkanen Stat Line: 31 points (12-19 FG, 5-10 3PT), 9 rebounds, 1 steal, 1 block
Down 18 points in the fourth quarter, the Bulls made a furious rally to push the game to overtime and eventually beat the Wizards in their house. Markkanen scored on an alley-oop tip with 1:47 in overtime to give Chicago their first lead since the first quarter. Lauri’s teammates did a great job of finding him as he was feeling it from distance, knocking down five three-pointers on ten attempts. That’s the type of marksman shooting that Markkanen is capable of, as it was the eleventh time that Lauri hit at least five triples in a game.