Daryl Morey has done a terrific job putting together a Sixers roster that is best suited to surround Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. However, with the season rapidly going by, there is no time to rest on the successes so far. Adding a big man who can stretch the floor would increase the effectiveness of the second team when Joel Embiid is not there and also provide a new look to the offense if he can play alongside the big fella.
In today’s run-and-gun NBA there are a large number of big men who fit this style of play whom Daryl Morey will look to sort from. However, one player who could be the difference for the Sixers rotation is Bulls forward Lauri Markkanen.
Who is Lauri Markkanen?
The 4th year player was originally drafted 7th overall in 2017 by the Timberwolves before being traded to the Chicago Bulls in the first Jimmy Butler deal.
Markkanen stands 7 feet tall and has a career average of 19.1 points per game. He is a terrific spot-up shooter and excels in pick-and-pop. Lauri is a career 36% 3-point shooter and is knocking these long-range shots at a career-high 39.6% rate this season.
The Finnish product is underrated off the dribble and can slash better than he gets credit for. While he isn’t known for his defensive ability he is more than playable on that side of the floor. The currently-sidelined forward also boasts a versatile play-style that would allow him to space the floor. Finding guys that space the floor for Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons must continue to be the theme as the roster construction continues.
Why would the Bulls deal him?
Markkanen has been great on the court this season. He is averaging 19.1 points and 6.1 rebounds per game with his highest shooting numbers across the board. Unfortunately this comes at a price as Lauri is in the final year of his rookie contract.
The Arizona product failed to reach an extension prior to the December 21st deadline and will be a restricted free agent this offseason. Markkanen had an injury-riddled year last season and the new-look front office for the Bulls that took over this season allegedly does not have much faith in him.
The two sides attempted to reach a deal but never came close. It is likely Lauri will be looking for a major payday this Summer in his first time reaching the free-agent market. If the Bulls believe they are not going to be able to re-sign him, which appears likely, don’t be shocked if they look to get something in return for him rather than lose him for free.
While it may only be for half of a season, Markkanen would still be a major addition for the Sixers. It would not be impossible for the Sixers to reach an extension with the big man, but it is unlikely given their current cap situation. However, if the Sixers would be able to move some lower-tier bench players in exchange for a player the caliber of Markkanen’s talent this should be an opportunity the team should jump on.
What a Sixers trade for Markkanen look like?
This is an interesting trade scenario where the circumstances may dictate the return more than talent. From a talent perspective Lauri Markkanen is worth far more than what the Sixers would likely be willing to offer.
However, if the Bulls give up hopes of re-signing Lauri this offseason it is entirely possible they will look to attain any asset they can get. It is a situation where the Bulls will be cutting their losses in preparation for the loss of the talented stretch forward. If this is the case the Sixers should be the first one to their phones.
Bulls Get: Isaiah Joe, Tony Bradley, Terrance Ferguson, 2nd round pick (2021), 2nd round pick swap (Bulls get higher pick- 2023)
Sixers Get: Lauri Markkanen
Isaiah Joe is an exciting prospect who has looked more developed than expected in early glimpses so far this season. He is a volume three-point shooter who could grow into a real role with the Sixers. Joe is also on an extremely team-friendly deal with 3 years remaining
However, he is still a few years away from reaching his full potential. With the Sixers leading the pack in the East and Joel Embiid having an MVP caliber season, the championship window has already cracked open. It would be worth it to attain Markkanen who can help compete for that title now rather than wait for Joe to grow into a player that hopefully can.
It is also relevant to note that Joe’s potential is fairly similar to what Furkan Korkmaz can do right now. While I won’t argue that Joe probably still has a higher overall ceiling, Furkan has successfully filled the role of off-the-bench three-point threat.
Tony Bradley is also a player who holds some value. He is just 23 years old and has shown signs of promise in limited opportunity. The former Pacer is currently averaging 4.3 points and 5.6 rebounds in 12.8 minutes per game this season. Bradley still is well-regarded around the league and someone the Bulls could find interest in exploring if he is worth a long-term cheaper deal.
Terrance Ferguson is in this primarily to allow the contracts to match up. After coming along in the Danny Green trade, Ferguson has failed to work his way into the lineup. He has played just 22 minutes this season and has yet to register a point. The former high school hype real has fallen off since surpassing college for an overseas professional career. However, at 22 years old he still has a ton of potential and could be looked at as a low-risk high-reward option.
There is still a long time before the March 25th trade deadline. It is also noteworthy that Lauri recently suffered a shoulder sprain and will be out 2-4 weeks, which likely will put negotiations on hold at the moment. Finding the right final pieces to complete the bench is the key to catapulting the Sixers from title contenders to full-on favorites. Adding Markkannen without touching the core of the roster would do just that.
Photo by Torrey Purvey/Icon Sportswire
Lead Sixers Writer for Philly Sports Network and Co-host of the Pick Swap Podcast. Trust the Process
Twitter: @Sean_Barnard1 and @PickSwapPod