Bulls Insider

Bulls mailbag: Will Lonzo trade happen? Markkanen's future?

Bulls Insider

The trade deadline is tomorrow. With little time to waste, let's get to your questions.

With all the lights on Lonzo Ball ahead of this week's trade deadline, and coming off of watching sports analysts and Hall of Fame players alike debate his potential, I got to thinking about how the Bulls may be one of, if not, the best spot for Ball to land. Many compare the merit of his success in proportion to the success of De'Aaron Fox , which is fair, though seemingly unfair at the same time. To make a long story somewhat short, the situations in which Ball has been a part of largely require(d) him to play a role in a set system where the keys to the offense or the team itself are given to another player(s). Given those situations, the output required of Ball may not necessarily be where his skill caps out at -- but rather, that's all that's needed of him. Whereas his more offensive-oriented counterpart -- Fox -- was and has had the keys to his team since he's arrived because, without him, his team is null and void. Ball on the other hand has always been paired with one or multiple All-Star or even All-Star-caliber players wherein if he were to be more "aggressive" and stray away from the role expected of him, said organization(s) may be more inclined to dismiss him for a guard they could mold to their liking and better fits their scheme. I say that to say, him coming to the Bulls to fill a hole in which they desperately need filling while also being able to potentially embrace a role larger than he has been presented in the past, could not only be a maturation opportunity but a chance to see if his skills can rise to the occasion. Just curious about your thoughts on the situation and how you would assess the potential acquisition at face value? --- Javonte A.

 

You’d have to believe in your very premise because word around the league is he’ll be seeking $18-20 million annually in restricted free agency. So if your plan is to pair him with Zach LaVine, who also will be seeking a payday either this offseason or next, you have to be sold.

As of Tuesday night, based on conversations I had with various league types, the Pelicans were asking for at least a first-round pick in any Ball deal. This new regime doesn’t appear to me to be the type to be sacrificing first-round draft capital, particularly on the front end of a large project to rework the roster. But I’ve been wrong before.

There's less value in expiring contracts than in previous years, simply due to the expanding playoffs and more teams wanting/able to get in. From what I can tell, the teams most in need of getting money off their 2021-22 books are Golden State (Andrew Wiggins), Brooklyn (DeAndre Jordan), and Philadelphia. None of those teams are likely willing and/or able to compensate the Bulls with a first-round pick for taking on those contracts in exchange for Otto Porter Jr. or Cristiano Felicio. But I keep hearing about New Orleans. If they want to be able to match a deal for Lonzo Ball next year, they'll probably have to get off of Eric Bledsoe's deal. And we can use a competent point guard who can play defense. He's not ideal, but perhaps the Pelicans would be willing to give the Bulls Bledsoe and one of their treasure troves of first-round picks in exchange for Porter or whomever. Any thoughts? --- Paulie G.

Word around the league is that the Pelicans aren’t sold on paying Ball, which is why they failed to hit on a contract extension and why he’s in trade talks.

Bledsoe’s deal isn’t awful because his $19.3 million for 2022-23 isn’t fully guaranteed. But you’d lose some flexibility for this offseason. Whether or not a first-round pick -- and perhaps its protections -- is worth that is the answer to your hypothetical. I’d say an emphatic no as I also think Bledsoe has dropped off considerably.

 

Lauri Markkanen is a prime example of a player that has all the physical tools to be great. He’s an athletic 7-footer who could shoot and handle the ball but does not appear to have the desire, work ethic or mental strength to maximize his potential. He has not added tools to his repertoire since his rookie year (i.e. a post game, playmaking abilities, etc.) and his rebounding and defense have badly regressed. Do you think if he had the mindset and work ethic of say, Jimmy Butler, he would be closer to the franchise player the Bulls thought they had during his rookie year? --- Dan B.

It’s difficult, and dangerous, to question commitment and work ethic. Athletes are human beings first and foremost. They have cultural differences, different backgrounds and varying current lives. Surely, Markkanen believes he’s as committed as possible and working as hard as he can. So is it a lack of commitment or perhaps a difference in ceiling?

This isn’t to diminish Butler’s noted -- and fanatical -- commitment to work. Nor is to suggest that questions about Markkanen not progressing as much as the franchise envisioned or hoped aren’t valid. Or that certain athletes don’t possess more mental fortitude than others -- because there are differences. Just like there are differences in personalities in any work force.

But to suggest Markkanan is existing in the NBA solely because of talent is a short-sighted view in my opinion. He stayed in Chicago most all last offseason to train and work instead of his normal offseason in Finland.

Markkanen is the father of two small children. He comes from Finland, a country, perhaps stereotypically, noted for people with reserved natures. I’m not a psychologist, but every athlete’s story is different.

While Lauri has had issues staying healthy, given his improvement in scoring, don’t you think he is a huge asset? Yes, the Bulls need a point guard but Coby White is still learning. I feel like where the Bulls struggle most is in the paint on the defensive end. --- Abhi Y.

This is an example of how polarizing Markkanen’s potential is. Some people still view him as a franchise building block. Others want him gone. Obviously, only management’s opinion matters. I will say if the Bulls keep Markkanen, an upgrade at point guard would help him. He has become a very assist-dependent scorer. White is a rotation piece to me, but he’s not a starting point guard.

Is Coby White the worst player ever at getting around screens? Asking for a friend. --- Anthony O.

 

Is this from Billy Donovan’s burner account? And to be clear, I’m making that joke, not Donovan, who has supported White at every turn and always talks about how willing of a learner and worker he is. But your premise has some merit. The Bulls in general give up too much at the point of attack. White’s screen navigation is just one part of it.

Wendell Carter Jr.’s trade stock is lesser than Lauri Markkanen’s but shouldn't be less enough to pull off a good trade without losing the potential of Markannen. --- Isaiah C.

Carter is in his third season, hasn’t stayed healthy in any of them and recently got replaced in the starting lineup by a 14-year veteran. I haven’t heard his name mentioned in any trade talks.

Which player holds the leadership role on the Bulls right now? Do you think the Bulls are lacking player leadership?

What are your thoughts with Joakim Noah being an assistant coach for the Bulls under Billy Donovan?

When do you think fans will be able to go to games in the United Center? --- Madeline E.

Since you asked so many questions, let’s do rapid-fire answers: There are several leaders, but Thad Young and Garrett Temple are the most prominent voices. LaVine has grown in this area as well. I don’t view them as lacking leadership at all.

I don’t think Noah is interested in coaching at this point.

I do think that will happen before the end of the season. After hosting the Cavaliers Wednesday, the Bulls play nine of their next 10 games on the road, so it’s a moot point for now. But given the way state and local political leaders are trending, based on health experts and science, I think it’s coming.

So how did the Bulls trade Jalen Rose, Lonny Baxter and Donyell Marshall to the Raptors in 2003? --- Parker L.

Fax machine? It was a long time ago.

I was on the beat for the Chicago Tribune back then. I remember that story well, including calling Jalen Rose as he drove to O’Hare to get his departing comments. Antonio Davis played a big part in giving the Bulls veteran leadership and a stabilizing defensive presence under Scott Skiles, who had just replaced Bill Cartwright.

Do you think the Bulls will actually make a trade? What are your thoughts on Andre Drummond? I got into an argument with a guy the other day that doesn’t think he'd help but we clearly need his rebounding and low post presence. He doesn’t solve our need for a second consistent scoring option but he can help us. Wendell Carter Jr. is not the answer. --- Allen H.

I have no strong feelings about Andre Drummond. If you’re trading Otto Porter Jr. straight up for him and not sacrificing any other assets, it would be fine. Beyond that, pass.

The Bulls have some great vets. I keep seeing fans saying we need to trade for value and focus on youth. Do you have any sense if AK might want to follow the Utah model instead? They've doubled down on having a team with no All-NBA players but having lots of depth and excellent vets. I might enjoy that path better than just hoping for more draft luck and waiting on Lauri. Do you see this as a viable option? --- Alejandro Y.

Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert might like a word. Broadening the answer to the Bulls, Thad Young has been amazing this year, but he’s not putting the Bulls in championship contention.

What's your favourite Bulls moment of the season thus far? --- Matt A.

Since you’re asking from Down Under, we’ll allow the funky spelling of favorite.

My favorite moment was when the BullsTV crew surprised Zach LaVine with a Zoom call filled with family, close friends and influences from his past when he made his first All-Star game. Jamal Crawford, in particular, took a starring role in that video. LaVine is a very grounded individual who keeps his inner circle small and close. That video was legit cool.

And even better? He thought he was hopping on a Zoom to talk to us beat grunts, which he did shortly after.

Thanks for all the questions. Talk to you soon.

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