The team sent the Finnish forward to the Cleveland Cavaliers as part of a sign-and-trade deal that also included the Portland Trail Blazers.
ESPN Sources: Cleveland’s acquiring Chicago’s Lauri Markkanen in three-way sign and trade with Portland. Bulls get Derrick Jones Jr., POR’s lottery protected future 1st and Cavs’ future second-rounder. POR gets Larry Nance Jr. https://t.co/CgN3mhaLHY
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) August 27, 2021
In the deal, Markkanen secured a new contract and a new lease on his NBA life.
But Cleveland sports a suddenly crowded frontcourt.
Markkanen’s Up And Down Career In Chicago
Markkanen arrived in Chicago as part of the franchise-altering trade that sent Jimmy Butler to the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Unfortunately, that core failed to produce any postseason berths before being disbanded.
Markkanen earned first-team All-Rookie honors in his first season averaging 15.2 points and 7.5 rebounds per game.
His play improved in his second season when he posted career-highs in points (18.7) and rebounds per game (9.0).
During one memorable stretch in February 2019, Markkanen dominated to the tune of 26 points, 12.2 rebounds, 2.4 assists per game with eight double-doubles and a true shooting percentage of 62.
Seemingly on an All-Star trajectory, injuries and unavailability hampered further development for the stretch big.
Markkanen noted he needed a fresh start after things in Chicago did not develop as planned.
He fell out of Chicago’s starting lineup last season for the first time in his career.
Markkanen posted career-lows in minutes (25.8), points (13.6), rebounds (5.3), and assists per game (0.9).
The 24-year-old seven-footer signed a four-year, $67 million deal as part of the sign-and-trade, and in return for Markkanen, Chicago received a protected first-round pick.
Markkanen Among Crowded Frontcourt In Cleveland
Markkanen’s desire for a fresh start and a new role seem at odds with his landing in Cleveland.
To their credit, the Cavaliers seem excited to have Markkanen on the roster.
— Cleveland Cavaliers (@cavs) August 28, 2021
But the Cavaliers spent on their center position this offseason, inking Jarrett Allen to a $100 million contract.
Cleveland then selected big-man Evan Mobley with the third overall selection in the 2021 NBA Draft.
With the recent addition of Tacko Fall, the Cavaliers now sport five players on their roster at 6-foot-11 or taller.
Markkanen played some at small forward after last season’s trade deadline, but he is not even a passable perimeter defender.
His best position remains power forward.
Markkanen provides a capable stretch element for any offense, considering he made more than 40 percent of his threes last season.
But the Cavaliers already have a stretch-four in Kevin Love.
Allen and Mobley will play, and play regularly for Cleveland, so Markkanen seems ticketed for a reserve role once again.
If the Cavaliers are going to try to trade Love at any point, they’ll need to showcase his skills, which would mean he gets minutes ahead of Markkanen as well.