Restricted free-agency can make transactions complicated, but the Chicago Bulls worked around it to send Lauri Markkanen off his way. The Bulls, Cavaliers, and Trail Blazers are nearing a three-team deal to send Lauri Markkanen to Cleveland, Larry Nance Jr. to Portland, and Derrick Jones Jr to Chicago. The Bulls are now below the $6.4 million below the luxury tax with 13 guaranteed contracts.
Lauri Markkanen will ink a four-year, $67 million deal with Cleveland, tagging him at approximately $16.7 million annually. This falls as a surprise for the Cavs, since the recent investments on Jarrett Allen and No. 3 overall draft selection Evan Mobley. Markkanen was an acquisition in the Jimmy Butler trade after being drafted by the Minnesota Timberwolves and posted 15.6 points and 7.1 rebounds in 195 starts with Chicago.
Markkanen is an intriguing player with superior finishing capabilities off the dribble and an expanding jump-shot. Markkanen has vast talents to improve on outside of his offense. The big man improved on his offensive efficiency under Billy Donovan last campaign and shot a career-best 48% from the field over 51 contests. His size and spacing should slide nicely into Cleveland’s extended young core.
As part of the agreement, Portland receives Larry Nance Jr. The Blazers are committed to become a improving defensive team under newly added head coach Chauncey Billups. Nance brings an ideal defensive impact to the Damian Lillard led team and has the size and strength to match up against bigger wings. Nance and also improves Portland’s offensive production after launching a career-high 36.0% from distance last year. At 6″7′ Nance should fit well into Billups’ rotation with improved shooting, perimeter firepower, and defensive versatility in specific lineups.
After a brief tenure with the Trail Blazers, Derrick Jones Jr, former dunk contest campion will be sent packing. Along with a protected first-round pick and 2023 second-rounder, Jones Jr. is on his way to Windy City. Jones Jr. was previously on Chicago’s radar. The 23-year-old brings tremendous upside to a rotation with the need of wings. Jones Jr. adds a element of fluid athleticism outside of Zach LaVine and provides defensive versatility. On the offensive end, Jones is yet to prove he can be reliable. Jones is more of a finisher than a creator. His athleticism and versatility growth is a vital contribution to the lacking Chicago Bulls. Not to mention, Jones Jr. is on an expiring $9.7 million contract.