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Lauri Markkanen Is About to Enjoy a Career Renaissance After His Trade From the Chicago Bulls to the Cleveland Cavaliers

The Bulls traded Lauri Markkanen to the Cleveland Cavaliers on Thursday night, which will allow the Finnish forward to enjoy a career renaissance.

Lauri Markkanen is about to enjoy a career renaissance after his trade from the Chicago Bulls to the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Since being selected in 2017, Lauri Markkanen has been toiling away in Chicago. He was drafted by the Minnesota Timberwolves but was quickly rerouted to the Chicago Bulls, where he initially showed promise before fading and almost entirely disappearing from the NBA radar. Markkanen requested a trade this summer, knowing well well that he would never get his chance in Chicago. When he was traded from the Bulls to the Cavaliers, he received exactly what he wanted. Markkanen’s career is set to take off now that he’s in a fresh position.

Markkanen is about to start a new job that will better suit his skills and provide him with additional possibilities. He fits in far better with the Cavs’ team than he did with the Bulls’, and he’s going to remind everyone in the NBA why he was a top-10 selection in the first place.

In a three-team transaction that included Larry Nance Jr. and Derrick Jones Jr., Lauri Markkanen was moved to the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Sources tell @TheAthletic @Stadium that the Bulls, Cavaliers, and Trail Blazers are close to agreeing on a three-team deal that would send Lauri Markkanen to Cleveland, Larry Nance Jr. to Portland, and Derrick Jones Jr., a first-round selection, and extra draft compensation to Chicago.

August 27, 2021 — Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania)

Markkanen was the obvious star of the show, and he’ll earn $67 million in salary over four years with the Cavs in a sign-and-trade deal. Jones will join Damian Lillard and the Portland Trailblazers in Chicago, while Nance will join Damian Lillard and the Portland Trailblazers in Portland. Jones, who has one year remaining on his deal, averaged 6.8 points in 22.7 minutes per game last season. Nance’s deal is good for two more years, until he turns 29 and earns $9.67 million. Nance has averaged 8.3 points, 6.7 rebounds, and 1.3 steals a game in his career, shooting 53 percent from the field and 33 percent from three.

Nance and Jones are both role players with a reputation for agility, defense, and vigor.

This wasn’t the big, superstar deal that everyone was hoping for, but it’s also not unimportant.

Markkanen’s career is set to take off now that he’s out of Chicago.

Lauri Markkanen of the Chicago Bulls high fives teammate Thaddeus Young.

Lauri Markkanen of the Chicago Bulls high fives teammate Thaddeus Young. During an NBA game against the Detroit Pistons, Lauri Markkanen of the Chicago Bulls high fives teammate Thaddeus Young. | Nic Antaya/Getty Images

In the 2017 NBA Draft, Markkanen was selected seventh overall. The 7-footer averaged 15.6 points and 7.2 rebounds on 58.4 percent shooting in his lone season at Arizona. His scouting report for the draft was that of a traditional stretch big. In a center’s body, he possesses guard-like abilities. The greatest criticism on Markkanen was his defense, which has seemed to hold him back in his NBA career so far.

Up until last season, he had started every game but one. Last season, Markkanen came off the bench for almost half of Chicago’s games and played a career-low number of minutes. It was clear that his prospects with the Bulls were dwindling.

However, the Finnish power forward is still just 24 years old and has all of the qualities that made him a lottery selection. Even in a restricted bench role, Markkanen hit 40.2 percent from three-point range on almost six tries per game last season. He has an 84.5 percent lifetime free-throw shooting percentage, so he has the ability. In Chicago, head coach Billy Donovan was just not the right match.

In Cleveland, Lauri Markkanen is a perfect match.

In Cleveland, the Finnisher’s skill set will be considerably more useful. Collin Sexton and Darius Garland are the Cavaliers’ two scoring guards. Markkanen will be able to immediately contribute as a spot-up shooter and pick-and-pop threat in the lineup. Outside of Sexton and Garland, the Cavs don’t have many off-the-dribble shot makers — or offensive threats in general. Markkanen’s minutes and shooting attempts should both increase from last season.

Cleveland is also the ideal place for Markkanen to conceal his defensive shortcomings. Jarrett Allen was given a huge contract extension by the club, while Evan Mobley was chosen third overall in the 2021 draft. Allen is a high-level rim protector and rebounder with athleticism. Mobley, a 7-footer who is expected to improve his scoring game, will be challenged to play a more defensive, rim-running position this season. As the team’s final line of defense, both big guys are competent.

On the Cavs’ depth chart, Markkanen could either start right away or serve as an offensive spark off the bench. Through his ability to screen and pop, he can be more than simply a sixth-man scorer, as his ability to open the floor for Cleveland’s guards and not block the lane as much as Mobley and Allen would.

The 7-footer was in desperate need of a change of environment. He requested it, and he got it. Markkanen will move from being an afterthought in Chicago to a key component in Cleveland’s resurgence.

Basketball-Reference provided all statistics, while Spotrac provided contract information.

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