The 2017 NBA Draft class has started to show their true colors three seasons into their respective careers and we have a good idea of where each player stands with their franchise. The Orlando Magic have made a decent-sized commitment to 2017 No. 1 overall pick Markelle Fultz, exercising their fourth-year team option on the 21-year old guard. This keeps him under contract for the 2020-21 season for $12.3 million.
Bulls star forward Lauri Markkanen, drafted No. 7 overall in 2017, will likely have a decision made soon on his fourth-year option ($6.7 million), but his position with the Bulls was never in doubt, however, what the move by Orlando did was again bring to the forefront how impressive Markkanen has been as compared to the rest of the 2017 NBA Draft class.
Among the top 10 picks in the 2017 NBA Draft, Markkanen is second in win shares (6.1) to only No. 3 overall pick Jayson Tatum (12.0).
Get well soon, Lauri.— Chicago Bulls (@chicagobulls) March 28, 2019
In his second NBA season, Lauri Markkanen played in 52 games, averaging career highs in points (18.7), rebounds (9.0) & minutes per game (32.3). Additionally, Lauri’s 34 career double-doubles are the second-most among players from the 2017 NBA Draft class. pic.twitter.com/fbzVCFKX5K
Markkanen was not a household name coming off of his lone year at Arizona and had the reputation of a floor-spacer who brought little else to the floor in terms of value, he quickly dispelled those notions, going on a historic tear that resulted in one of the best rookie campaigns in Bulls history.
He was the first Bulls rookie since Elton Brand to score 1,000 points and grab 500 rebounds in a season, and before Markkanen none of the 107 players to score 1,000 points and grab 500 rebounds had made 110 or more 3-pointers in their respective rookie seasons.
Unlike Fultz, who suffered to find his footing with a playoff-bound Sixers team and has yet to play for his latest team in Orlando, Markkanen's career was aided by the fact that the Bulls were thin on frontcourt depth right at the start of the 2017-18 season. Markkanen has not looked back since given an opportunity to be the Bulls starting power forward and has averaged 16.7 points and 8.2 rebounds for his career while shooting 36.2 percent from the 3-point line.
Markkanen has become better in every aspect of his game and will need a similar sort of leap if the Bulls hope to turn things around in 2020. The Magic reaffirming their belief in Fultz is in no way shocking, but it should serve as a reminder to Bulls fans that the franchise made out quite well by selecting the Finnish big man back in 2017 amid the uncertainty surrounding the post-Jimmy Butler Bulls.
Zach LaVine is one of the faces of the Bulls and also isn’t shy about sharing his opinion.
LaVine did the rounds for a number of interviews for a promotion with CarMax and dished on several things Bulls related. One of the eye-catching quotes in an interview with FanSided was about Wendell Carter Jr.
“He was starting to get into a groove when he got injured man, that’s one of the worst things in all of sports,” LaVine said of Carter. ”He’s been in the gym working all year. He has great defensive intangibles as a rookie, especially for a big guy as a rookie. I feel like it’s always tougher for them, but he’s shown different little flashes to where he’s seemed above his experience level, so I’m really excited for him.”
LaVine himself has gone through a solid year-by-year progression in his career, with the exception of his injury-limited first season with the Bulls in 2017-18. If he thinks Carter can make the same type of progress, the Bulls will have a solid player soon enough.
Carter averaged 10.3 points and 7 rebounds per game before missing the second half of the season due to injury in mid-January. LaVine noted Carter’s defense, which was what impressed people most about Carter as a rookie. The next step will be improving his offensive game.
Carter is fully expected to start at center, especially considering he started all 44 games he played in as a rookie. Robin Lopez is gone, but Luke Kornet and rookie Daniel Gafford have joined Cristiano Felicio on the big man depth chart for the Bulls.
For more on Carter, check out our player preview for him as we lead up to the start of the Bulls season.