In what has amounted to a tumultuous offseason, the Chicago Bulls received a breath of fresh air in their preseason win over the Cleveland Cavaliers. Rookie Lauri Markkanen, the centerpiece of the Jimmy Butler deal with Minnesota, displayed all the attributes that made him one of the nation’s best college players a year ago.
The 20-year-old power forward effortlessly sank three-pointers and streaked to the rim for emphatic dunks. For the rebuilding Bulls, Markkanen’s effort comes as a relief. Sure, it’s only preseason, but Chicago will need some of its young players to thrive in order to compete this year and into the future.
In his first preseason tilt, Markkanen struggled from the floor, making only one of his nine shot attempts while missing all six of three-point jumpers. He settled into the offense against the Cavs, though. His 18 points were accompanied by four three-pointers.
“I’m not lacking in confidence,” Markkanen told reporters after the game. “I made one shot and felt even better. … [The coaches and I] have focused on finishing every shot and having every shot on balance.”
In the long term, Markkanen’s floor spacing will be key for young guards like Zach LaVine–who is recovering from a torn ACL–and Kris Dunn–also acquired in the Butler deal.
Dunn is expected to miss 2-4 weeks after suffering a dislocated finger in the preseason. When the regular season starts, the Bulls are expected to start guards Jerian Grant and Justin Holiday.
When Dunn and LaVine return, Holiday is likely to retain a starting position, as he has impressed throughout training camp and preseason. He tallied 28 points in the win over the Cavaliers. Holiday has converted on 15 of his 31 three-point attempts in the preseason, and Chicago has proven to be a high-volume team from behind the arc.
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