The Lauri Markkanen/Chicago Bulls breakup saga is finally coming to an end. After several weeks of back and forth speculation including multiple rumors, Lauri Markkanen has found a new home. The Bulls will send the Finnish forward to the Cleveland Cavilers in a sign-and-trade agreement, per Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN. The deal is for four years, $67 million.
Markkanen's new deal will pay him $16 million annually, an AAV far higher than the Bulls' $9 million qualifying offer. It was clear Markkanen wanted out of Chicago after he deleted everything Bulls-related off his social media pages. He also went as far as telling Finnish reporters that he wanted out.
The move that will finally get Markkanen out of Chicago was structured as a three-team trade. The Cavaliers received Markkanen, the Trailblazers got Larry Nance Jr., and the Bulls landed Derrick Jones Jr., a 2022 protected first-round pick, and a 2023 second-rounder.
Derrick Jones Jr. is coming to the Bulls on an expiring $9.7 million contract. At age 24, he is a marginal offensive role player but has commendable slashing and dunking ability. He is well known as a solid rim protector on defense. Jones Jr. also possesses a strong athletic build to help cover the paint. He can guard the wing, which is a major area of need for the Bulls. The Bulls have again checked the box of a defensive-minded player for a cheaper deal than what other potential free-agent signings would have commanded.
The most important part of the return is the draft picks the Bulls received. The Bulls are trying to retool a young core whose championship window is just opening. Arturas Karnisovas, Marc Eversley and co. previously relinquished multiple picks for Lonzo Ball and Nikola Vucevic. This trade will help replenish their draft capital. More importantly, the Bulls are facing a potnetial tampering violation for the Lonzo Ball sign-and-trade. The typical punishment for such an offense is losing a first-round pick. This trade may offset that.
The Bulls still have a few more roster spots to fill, so stay tuned to Bulls On Tap for more offseason coverage.