Lauri Markkanen remains in free agent with most teams lacking cap space and the Chicago Bulls seeking a first round pick for facilitating a sign-and-trade, sources tell Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report.
The Bulls are also requiring Markkanen’s new team to find a third trade partner to take on the outgoing salary needed to create space for his contract. The third team would seek draft pick compensation, which means any team interested in Markkanen must send a first to Chicago and likely another first or two second rounders elsewhere.
“Chicago is playing this masterfully from no other perspective than a contract management standpoint,” said one team capologist. “It won’t do any favors relationship-wise, but they’re bleeding his market based on their tax situation, and nobody else can offer him any kind of money without them.”
The Dallas Mavericks, New Orleans Pelicans, Minnesota Timberwolves and Boston Celtics have all shown interest in Markkanen at deals worth around $15 million in average annual value.
Markkanen may be forced into accepting a one-year qualifying offer that would pay him approximately $9 million and he could then become an unrestricted free agent next summer. Markkanen, however, is believed to not have interest in a return to Chicago on that structure.