Where’s Lauri Markkanen?
The once rising star of the young Finnish big is officially a rapidly sinking cost. Through the first two months of the season, Markkanen is averaging a career-low 13.6 points per game, lacking the aggressive play that fans have become accustomed to. Perhaps this is the style that Markkanen truly has. His per-36 is not much better either, dipping from 20.8 points per game last season
Markkanen was a member of the NBA’s All-Rookie for the 2017-18 season. He was regarded by many in NBA circles to be the next in line of great European bigs. Ranked 22nd in CBS Sport’s top 25 under 25 going into the season hope still remains for the 22-year-old Markkanen.
Aside from the career night in Charlotte in the season opener, Markkanen has been relatively quiet for a player tabbed as one of the faces of the Bulls latest rebuild. It’s left even the most optimistic of Bulls fans scratching their heads and searching for answers. Hope is not lost.
Here are some of the things that are affecting the play of the Bulls young star:
The glaring issue with Lauri right now is how passive he’s been on the offensive end of the court this season. Now to some extent, Lauri is culpable for the lack of aggression, however, the aspect that sticks out is what’s being asked of him in Jim Boylen’s offense.
Lauri is being relegated to the three-point line. The three-point shot is certainly a part of Lauri game but as a 7-footer it should not be the dominating trait. 126 of Lauri’s 250 attempts from the field this season have been from behind the arc which he’s hitting at a 31.6 percent clip, as opposed to his 36 percent average of the past two seasons.
Markkanen showed he’s most effective when he’s attacking the basket and making defenders commit to his interior game. The drag step was always a good sign that he was looking to go on the attack.
The other thing that has been working is the two-man game between both him and Zach LaVine. This is working outside of the Boylen system but the rogue play has proven to create something that Markkanen or Boylen cannot create on their own.
The other thing that has stood out has been the reported injury that Markkanen has been playing through.
The injury was first disclosed at the beginning of November. Judging based on the time of the disclosure, he’s been dealing with this injury since the start of the season.
Injuries are starting to become the overwhelming narrative in Lauri’s career. His rookie year was cut to 68 games due to injury. Last year came to a screeching halt for Markkanen with a health scare relating to his heart.
Even though Jim Boylen values “grit and toughness,” there’s no sense in having Markkanen play if he’s seriously hurt and affecting the play of the team negatively.
Lauri’s career is certainly not over but the Bulls need to make changes fast if they hope to salvage the young career of their potential star.