Friday afternoon I tweeted as to why I believe Dallas should give the Bulls a call about Lauri Markkanen, but I wanted to elaborate on further.
A shooting big who’s similar would make life easier for Kristaps Porzingis. It would take some pressure off, which would be good for him. Additionally, having Markkanen on the roster would make it easier for Porzingis to continue to load manage. Dallas would then have someone who could seamlessly slide into his role when he doesn’t suit up.
Markkanen doesn’t need to start; at this point in his career he’s made no case for that. He and Porzingis are too redundant and would be a defensive liability. Porzingis could be the first substitution out (which would also help with his load management), and Markkanen could play 22-28 minutes per game, which could give him an opportunity to have a significant impact while also giving the Mavericks depth.
While Dallas already has a lot of bigs on their roster, Markkanen is more skilled than each of them with the exception of Porzingis. Not to mention, if the roster were to stay as is, only four of the current bigs would crack the rotation. Also, Markkanen would be acquired via sign and trade where Dallas would likely move off one of those bigs anyway. After his time with Chicago, he should be a cheaper acquisition, which would make this a low-risk move. He’s still only 24 and is sneaky athletic. He also has the potential to become more versatile as a rim roller after catching lots of lobs in Chicago. He’s certainly got something to prove.
Now how would this happen? Assuming Dragic gets bought out, Dallas could then bring him in at $10 million a year. If Toronto stands their ground and requires a return for Dragic, it will have to include Dwight Powell. After signing guys like Demar Derozan, Lonzo Ball, and Alex Caruso, Chicago doesn’t have the cap space to take on Powell’s contract, so whether we miss out on Dragic altogether, trade Powell for him, or sign him after he gets bought out, Powell would not be a part of the sign and trade package for Markkanen no matter what. Chicago currently has two true centers on their roster. Their offseason consisted of bringing in mostly guards and wings, so they will be looking to add some depth at the five position. Dallas could offer something along the lines of Willie Cauley-Stein and two second round picks. Markkanen hasn’t proved himself enough to warrant a first round pick and Dallas won’t be willing to include any core pieces.
Dallas would likely get outbid by other teams who have interest in Markannen, but if there is so much interest, why hasn’t he already been moved? It’s also worth noting that while he may be a restricted free agent, he still has some control and must choose where he wants to sign an offer sheet before Chicago begins negotiating what they want in return. Perhaps Markkanen feels that playing with Luka would be great for his game and would make it easier for him to start to re-establish himself in the league. Whatever happens, there’s still time for the Mavericks to do something and we’ll all have to wait and see.