Hornets reportedly showing interest in Lauri Markkanen
Looking for a little more depth and shooting at the four, the Hornets have turned to the guy the Bulls have the rights to (but are willing to move on from): Lauri Markkanen.
The Hornets are closing in on an offer sheet for Markkanen, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic.
There has also been interest from Minnesota of late, although those talks appear to have stalled.
Markkanen is a stretch four who hit 40.2% of his 3s last season, can score inside, and averaged 13.6 points per game for the Bulls (despite a shrinking role, especially after Chicago traded for Nikola Vucevic). He struggles on the defensive end and is not a rim protector, there have been issues about staying healthy and on the court, but he brings potential because he can score.
Markkanen is a restricted free agent, the Bulls can match any offer, which has primarily led to sign-and-trade talks surrounding the forward. Charlotte has the cap space to sign Markkanen outright — around $14 million free — but may need to work out a deal just so the Bulls do not match. What kind of deal can be worked out is one of the questions around this deal.
The other is money. Markkanen apparently wanted more than the mid-level exception, but that money doesn’t seem to be out there for him (his people had early talks with the Spurs, but San Antonio balked at the price, according to Brian Windhorst on The Hoop Collective podcast). It seems unlikely the Hornets would come in with an offer above what the Bulls would match, so some kind of deal will be worked out (the Bulls may be open to gaining a trade exception they could use later, they are hard capped and just about $25 million below that number).
Markkanen is one of the big names left on the free agent board, and he fills a need with the Hornets (who could use more shooting around shot creators LaMelo Ball, Terry Rozier, and Gordon Hayward). It wouldn’t be a surprise to get this deal done.