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Bulls Flashback: Denzel Valentine and Lauri Markkanen

It's past vs. future tonight in Cleveland.
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Denzel Valentine Lauri Markkanen Bulls Cavaliers

Photos: ChicagoBulls/Twitter

The Chicago Bulls are preparing to take on the Cleveland Cavaliers tonight. Chicago enters Cleveland on a four-game winning streak despite COVID-19 making its way through the locker room. The Cavaliers currently hold the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference and enter Wednesday's matchup on a two-game losing streak.

With how well the Bulls have been performing this year, I decided to take a look at some old friends. Old friends that were Bulls draft picks and played most of their careers to date in Chicago. Those old friends you ask? Lauri Markkanen and Denzel Valentine.

Denzel Valentine

Let's start with good ol' Denzel Valentine. The Bulls selected him with the 14th overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft. If you aren't familiar, that's a lottery pick. Well, the Bulls terribly botched that lottery pick.

During his time in Chicago, Valentine played in 232 games. He averaged 7.1 PPG, 1.9 APG, and 3.4 RPG. Valentine shot 39% from the field and 35% from downtown in 19.8 MPG.

Did I mention he also released a rap album? Forget I said that and spare yourself the time.

Now, I'm sure Valentine is a nice dude. I am not trying to disrespect him by any means. I'm just glad he doesn't play for the team I love and cover anymore.

Valentine could never get into a rhythm with the Bulls on the court. He made error after error and simply wasn't aesthetically pleasing to watch. I doubt Bulls' fans will see him in action tonight for the Cavaliers. He is only averaging 6.5 MPG with his new team this season.

Now that the Bulls are Eastern Conference contenders, we can look back and laugh about the painful era that preceded the newfound success. Let's take a walk down memory lane with this video of Valentine's worst blunders.

I wish Denzel Valentine all the success the world has to offer, just far away from Chicago.

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Lauri Markkanen

Next, let's talk about Lauri Markkanen. "The Finnisher" was supposed to be the future in Chicago. Obviously, it did not work out that way.

The Minnesota Timberwolves selected Markkanen seventh overall in the 2017 NBA Draft. The Bulls acquired Markkanen, Kris Dunn, and Zach LaVine in the now infamous Jimmy Butler trade.

People still argue about whether or not it was a good trade for the Bulls. I believe it was because Chicago ended up with Zach LaVine, and it was a domino that eventually led to the power shift from Gar Forman and John Paxson to Arturas Karnisovas and Marc Eversley.

Markkanen struggled with his identity outside his rookie year. He was the fastest player in NBA history to make 100 three-pointers and he earned All-NBA Rookie Team honors.

He increased his scoring output in year two, but the injury bug always seemed to find Markkanen. In his four years with the Bulls, Markkanen averaged 15.6 PPG, 7.0 RPG, and 1.2 APG. He shot 44% from the field and 36% from downtown. Markkanen wasn't a bad player per se, but perhaps the product of a broken system that was the Bulls coaching staff and front office.

So far in 2021 with Cleveland, Markkanen is putting up numbers similar to his Chicago stat line. He is averaging 14.6 PPG, 6.1 RPG, and 1.2 APG. He has started all 16 games he has appeared in.

Again, I think Markkanen was a good player for the Bulls, but he needed a change of scenery after all the turnover he witnessed in Chicago.

Past vs. Future

I find tonight's matchup against what was supposed to be the "future" extremely intriguing. Seeing what this Bulls team is now compared to what it was when I started Bulls On Tap represents a stark contrast.

In my mind, everything happens for a reason. Though the Bulls are dealing with several absences, I feel it's a game they should get up for. On the flip side, I'm sure Markkanen will play his heart out against the team that traded him away. As for Valentine, he'll likely be cheering from the end of the bench against the team that let him walk.

Benny The Bull Sport GIF by Chicago Bulls

Bulls vs. Cavaliers may not be a "must-watch" game for most basketball fans. But for me? I'm looking forward to watching the future dominate the past.