By Richard Kagan
There weren’t too many positives to take from this last Chicago Bulls campaign that saw them go 27-55 in a long season that has finally ended.
However, Lauri Markkanen probably could have won Rookie of the Year if not for the great season by Ben Simmons of the Philadelphia 76ers. Markkanen had a terrific season for the Bulls as he scored over 1000 points, grabbed 500 rebounds, and made at least 145 three pointers. The only other NBA players do that this past season were LeBron James of Cleveland and Dario Sakic of Philadelphia.
Markkanen produced and kept on producing for Chicago. He earned the praise and respect of John Paxson, one of the executives of the Bulls front office. “He’s a cornerstone,” Paxson said. Paxson was quoted in writer K.C. Johnson’s recent article in the Chicago Tribune on the rookie’s season.
“We landed him in the draft but we didn’t know what we had. I’m incredibly impressed with the poise he plays with.”
Paxson thinks this off-season will be crucial for Markkanen to make more progress. Paxson said he wants to see Markkanen establish a better foundation with his body and his footwork. Paxson noted that Markkanen was versatile in all areas of the court. He has the inside game and outside game. Now, he needs to work on the middle game a little.
Markkanen played in 68 NBA games. in his first year at Arizona he played in 31 games. He is certain to make the All -Rookie First Team with season averages of 15.2 points a game, 7.5 rebounds and a 36.2% mark from long-distance. Markkanen broke Kirk Hinrich’s rookie franchise record for three pointers and he is the first rookie since Elton Brand to score 1000 points and haul in 500 rebounds.
There were times on the court that Markkanen became the go-to guy in his rookie season. And, he did not shrink from the challenge. He led the Bulls in scoring numerous times this past season.
Zach LaVine, who came over in the trade with Markkanen for the rights to Jimmy Butler had nothing but real props for the youngster.
“He’s incredible”, said LaVine. “He’s a special talent. I feel we can have three all-stars here. This is going to be his first summer working out, and he already has the experience of through this year.”
The Bulls hope Markkanen, Kris Dunn, and Zach LaVine will provide the foundation of the team. The front office is preparing to draft two picks in the first round to bring in more talent.
The Bulls’ future looks brighter. Some will say it started with the arrival of Markkanen.