Bulls, Lauri Markkanen fail to reach agreement on rookie contract extension

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K.C. Johnson
·2 min read
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Markkanen set for restricted free agency without extension originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

Lauri Markkanen desired an extension of his rookie contract with the Bulls so badly that he said he pressured his agent to get one done.

But despite dialogue continuing until Sunday night, the two sides never came close on an agreement in advance of Monday's 5 p.m. CT deadline, sources said. Markkanen will be a restricted free agent in 2021.

"I really want to be here for the long term," Markkanen said last week.

The news came after a flurry of activity involving fellow members of Markkanen's 2017 draft class. Luke Kennard hit on an extension with the Clippers that could be worth $16 million annually and Markelle Fultz and Jonathan Isaac received long-term security from the Magic with average annual pay of $17.5 and $20 million respectively. O.G. Anunoby netted a deal from the Raptors that will average $18 million annually. Derrick White of the Spurs received a hair above that.

Those figures give a ballpark estimate of the market value that core rotation players sought from their respective teams. The deals also underscore the point that the 2021 free agency class, once ballyhooed and one which teams planned for by saving projected salary cap space, is drying up. But the money for those teams projected with salary cap space remains.

Thus, the restricted free agent market could become unpredictable. John Collins, Jarrett Allen and Lonzo Ball all also notably failed to reach extension agreements with their respective teams. The Bulls own the ability to match any offer sheet Markkanen may sign.

Jimmy Butler turned down a rookie contract extension offer in the low $40 million range in 2014, won the NBA's Most Improved Player award that season and eventually signed a five-year, $95 million deal after that season.

In one of Artūras Karnišovas' first major personnel decisions as executive vice president, the Bulls are essentially telling Markkanen to earn it like Butler did.

Markkanen is trying to rebound from a disappointing 2019-20 season in which his usage in Jim Boylen's offense drew widespread scrutiny. He also has battled injuries in each of his first three seasons in the league.

However, his activity and aggressiveness level in four preseason games under coach Billy Donovan has been encouraging.

Markkanen committed strongly to Karnišovas' new regime this offseason, limiting his time in his native Finland and training throughout the pandemic. Markkanen is an extremely private person, but how the lack of an extension affects him will be an intriguing storyline to monitor this season.

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