NBC Sports Chicago's Athlete of the Month for February: Lauri Markkanen

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NBC Sports Chicago's Athlete of the Month for February: Lauri Markkanen originally appeared on nbcsportschicago.com

NBC Sports Chicago is beginning a series that highlights Chicago athletes each month and their successes over the course of a calendar year. And for our second entry, Lauri Markkanen has been named Athlete of the Month for February. Over 10 February games he averaged 25.7 PPG, 12.2 RPG, 2.4 3PM and racked up 8 double-doubles. 

The start to Markkanen's sophomore campaign was delayed by a high grade lateral right elbow sprain which kept him out until December 1. Upon his return, he took on a bigger role than last season on offense, with an improved efficiency. But his rebounding numbers had plateaued around 7.5 to 8.5 RPG through much of December and January before his his big February started to take shape.

Markkanen's first game of February was a 30-point performance against the Hornets in which he attempted a career-high 13 free throws (and hit all 13), it was clear something had clicked for the now uber-aggressive Lauri, now capable of huge scoring nights even if his 3-point shot if off on any given night.

Lauri-not much of a playmaker throughout the youth and NCAA levels of basketball-has had quite a few "Point Lauri" moments as well. After not averaging even 1 assist over the months of December or January, he completed February with a 2.4 APG average. That 2.4 APG average in February represents the highest APG over a month in Markkanen's career. 

With seemingly all the offensive holes in his game slowly going away, Markkanen has responded with the most consistent string of All-Star caliber performances over any stretch in his young career. 

Bulls head coach Jim Boylen had talked often about wanting Markkanen to improve on his rebounding, specifically on the defensive end, and the very-coachable Markkanen has complied in a big way. Over 10 February games he averaged 12.2 RPG, which included a 31-PT, 18-REB double-double and a 35-PT, 15-REB double-double.

The 2020 NBA All-Star game will be at the United Center in Chicago, and the prevailing question at this time is: Will the Bulls have at least one representative on the All-Star roster?

If Markkanen can continue to build off of his NBC Sports Chicago Athlete of the Month performance in February, there is a good chance we will see him in All Star weekend's main event in 2020.

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OddsMoney LinePoint SpreadTotal Points
+155+3.5O 222.5
-189-3.5U 222.5