Lauri Markkanen Will Explore Free Agent Options

Lauri Markkanen will test the free agent waters, regardless of whether the Bulls extend a qualifying offer, he told K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago.

“My thing is I think I’ve always been a team-first guy. And I think now it’s time to look at the business side of the game,” Markkanen said. “I feel like I’m only 23 years old and I have a lot of basketball ahead of me. It’s a good opportunity to look what’s out there for me. I can be a focal point. I think I have a lot more to offer.”

The qualifying offer to make Markkanen a restricted free agent is worth approximately $9MM. It’s unclear just how much the Bulls want him back, though executive VP of basketball operations Artūras Karnišovas diplomatically said on Monday, “I think Lauri is an important part of our team. I’m looking forward to talking to his representation.” (Twitter link).

Markkanen turned down the Bulls’ extension offer in December when they couldn’t agree on the numbers. There was roughly a $4MM-per-year gap between the parties, according to Johnson.

Markkanen was part of the package the Bulls offered to the Pelicans for point guard Lonzo Ball at the trade deadline, Johnson adds. Those talks fell through, but Markkanen’s playing time and role was impacted by the additions of Nikola Vučević and Daniel Theis. He was moved into a reserve role, even though he considers himself a starter.

“Obviously, our team changed a lot and changed my role,” he said. “That was a little bit of an adjustment. I tried to play my role as well as I could.”

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