Should the Toronto Raptors consider Lauri Markkanen in free agency?

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - MAY 15: Lauri Markkanen #24 of the Chicago Bulls (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - MAY 15: Lauri Markkanen #24 of the Chicago Bulls (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images) /

The Toronto Raptors will need to address their frontcourt rotation in the offseason, as that collection of talent appears to be substandard even when you don’t factor in Pascal Siakam’s shoulder injury, which is expected to sideline him for the early parts of the season. Could a big name like Lauri Markkanen help turn this ship around?

Markkanen, who was picked No. 7 overall in the 2017 NBA Draft and shipped to the Chicago Bulls in the Jimmy Butler trade, looked like one of the game’s newest international stars. The Arizona alum and Finland product averaged 18.7 points per game on 43% shooting during his sophomore season.

Unfortunately, a return to the Bulls is looking unlikely, as Markkanen’s numbers started to dip under Billy Donovan. While his restricted free agency will give the Bulls more control over his next destination, that shouldn’t stop teams like the Raptors from making a run at the stretch big man.

Markkanen may not be a traditional big man in the sense of amassing gaudy rebounding and shot-blocking numbers, but his offensive toolbox is so deep that the Raptors have to consider at least extending some feelers out to gauge interest.

Lauri Markkanen might be a solid addition for the Toronto Raptors.

Detractors might point to Markkanen’s declining stats (13.6 points and 5.3 rebounds per game) next to Zach LaVine as a reason to avoid him, but his numbers hide some intriguing trends. Markkanen’s 48% shooting percentage from the field was the highest of his career by far, as was his 40% clip from 3-point range.

Markkanen could create the potential for mismatches, as he could pull some rim protectors out of the paint due to his shooting at the center spot. Donovan even experimented with putting Markkanen at small forward in some ultra-big lineups, and Chicago’s scoring with that alignment ranked in the 97th percentile.

The Raptors, and any other team chasing him, will likely concede that he is never going to be a good defender. With Toronto’s issues last year centering around rebounding, Markkanen might not be the most direct fix in those areas.

Considering what his price tag looks like, Toronto needs to make sure their rebounding and interior defense issues are solved before they consider going after a player like Markkanen.

In this league, you can never have too much shooting.  Markkanen offers value as either an oversized perimeter player with a deadly 3-point shot, a Sixth Man of the Year frontrunner off of the bench, or a traditional power forward with enough skill on the offensive end to help Toronto turn things around.

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