Bulls Season Rewind 17-18: Lauri Markkanen
Looking back at the rookie's dynamic first season
Lauri Markkanen Season Averages:
Few things got Bulls fans more pumped up this season than the performance of Lauri Markkanen. The 20-year old rookie from Finland was picked up as the centerpiece of the Jimmy Butler draft night trade last summer (along with Kris Dunn and Zach LaVine), as the 7th overall pick of the 2017 draft came to Chicago and blew away most expectations for his play in his rookie year.
Markkanen set the Bulls rookie record for three pointers made with 145 triples (no small feat for a 7-footer), became the fourth Bulls rookie (first in 18 years) to score 1,000 points and grab 500 rebounds in a season, and set an NBA rookie record with ten games in a row of at least two 3-pointers to begin his career. He represented the Bulls in the Rising Stars Challenge at All Star weekend and will doubtlessly be named to the All-Rookie Team over the summer. In short: Markkanen was really, really good.
The seven-foot power forward was so much more than advertised – the basketball world knew his shooting skills were elite coming out of his lone season at Arizona, but few expected his otherworldly athleticism, un-rookie like confidence and eye for the game that he exhibited in his rookie year. Bulls fans are in for quite a ride as Lauri’s career takes off – his ceiling is incredibly high. Let’s take a look at some of his best performances in a season full of them:
January 10, AT New York Knicks (Bulls 122, Knicks 119, 2OT)
This game was absolutely insane. Matched up with the Knicks at Madison Square Garden, and with the team’s mothers in attendance, the game was an absolute edge-of-your-seat thriller that the Bulls pulled off in two overtimes thanks in large part to the performance of Markkanen. Lauri scored a career high 33 points and hit 8 threes (joining Dirk Nowtizki the only 7-footer to hit that many threes in a game) and had one, insane poster dunk over Knicks forward Enes Kanter that led every highlight package in the country that night. He played stellar defense on Knicks star Kristaps Porzingis and was the main reason the team pulled out this win against their east coast rivals.
Markkanen Stat Line: 33 points (10-22 FG), 8-15 3PT, 10 rebounds, 2 steals, 1 block, 1 assist, 1 nasty poster dunk
December 29, VS Indiana Pacers (Bulls 119, Pacers 107)
The Bulls’ best month of the season was December, as they managed to find a groove and string some wins together as they began to gel as a team. In this matchup against the Pacers at the United Center, the Bulls were led by dominant performances from Markkanen and Nikola Mirotic, as the two combined for 60 (!) points between them. Lauri showed the scoring touch and skill that makes him so dangerous as a big man, hitting 65% of his shots (including 5 triples) en route to 32 points.
Markkanen Stat Line: 32 points (11-17 FG), 5-9 3PT, 7 rebounds, 1 assist
October 24, AT Cleveland Cavaliers (Cavs 119, Bulls 112)
This wasn’t one of Markkanen’s best performances of the season statistically – but in Lauri’s third professional game, this was perhaps the one that most showed that this kid was for real. After starting the season with two solid efforts in a couple of blowout losses, Markkanen went on the road into Cleveland and found himself in a dogfight with LeBron James and the Cavs. He set the rookie record by hitting his 10th three in his first three games as he sank five threes in the first half alone, grabbed eight rebounds and held his own when matched against some of the NBA’s best players. He made an impression, too – LeBron James praised him postgame, saying he was “Very confident…He can shoot the heck out of the ball. He’s going to continue to get better.”
Markkanen Stat Line: 19 points (7-12 FG), 5-9 3PT, 8 rebounds, 1 block