Central Notes: Bulls, Markkanen, Rubio, Martin

The Bulls and their recently-departed backup power forward Lauri Markkanen should both be better off following the restricted free agent’s sign-and-trade agreement with the Cavaliers, contends Sam Smith of Bulls.com.

Given that retaining Markkanen in Chicago would almost certainly stir locker room drama this season, Smith notes that both sides seem poised to benefit from this fresh start. The Bulls were able to add back two new future draft picks and some salary cap flexibility with Derrick Jones Jr.s expiring contract.

Markkanen, meanwhile, will get to once again put up good numbers on a new lottery-bound Cavaliers team that should inflate his depreciated value around the league. Smith still sees potential All-Star upside in Markkanen, the seventh overall selection by the Bulls out of Arizona in the 2017 draft. Perhaps the seven-footer can reach his ceiling in Cleveland.

There’s more out of the Central Division:

  • There are some fascinating wrinkles to ponder now that Markkanen has joined the Cavaliers, writes Kelsey Russo of The Athletic. Russo takes a deep dive into the Markkanen deal and how it could impact Cleveland’s frontcourt rotations. The 24-year-old sharpshooting big man will help spread the floor, and could do well alongside ball-handlers Darius Garland and Collin Sexton. Evan Mobley, the third pick in the 2021 draft out of USC, should compete with Markkanen for starting power forward honors. Mobley will likely see more time at center now, too, behind newly-minted $100MM man Jarrett Allen. Injury-prone former All-Star power forward Kevin Love will most likely fall behind both Markkanen and Mobley in the rotation now.
  • Oft-traded new Cavaliers reserve point guard Ricky Rubio admitted that being dealt so frequently has proven frustrating, as he told Didac Piferrer of Marca (hat tip to Johnny Askounis of EuroHoops). “I am indeed a bit tired (of the trades), but I have been in the NBA for ten years now and I know how it works,” Rubio said. “At the end of the day, everyone tries to be ready to adapt to a new environment. You must be mentally prepared for his. But everything takes time.” Rubio was dealt from the Suns to the Thunder, then to the Timberwolves, during the 2020 offseason. He was subsequently sent to Cleveland during the 2021 offseason. Rubio, who is on the last season of a three-year, $51MM deal he inked with Phoenix in 2019, has also played for the Jazz during his ten-year NBA career.
  • The Cavaliers renounced their free agent exception rights to two-way point guard Jeremiah Martin when completing the Markkanen sign-and-trade, per RealGM. After Cleveland promoted power forward Lamar Stevens from a two-way deal to its 15-man roster in April 2021, the club added Martin on a two-way contract. He suited up for nine contests with the team for the 2020/21 season.
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