Acquiring Lauri Markkanen would be a major boost for the New York Knicks, but it’s likely too good to be true.
The New York Knicks just missed out on Lauri Markkanen in 2017. Then-team president Phil Jackson had eyes for the 7-footer from Finland, but the Minnesota Timberwolves nabbed the sweet-shooting forward one pick before the Knicks took Frank Ntilikina.
Minnesota would send Markkanen to the Chicago Bulls in the Jimmy Butler trade and the Finnish-born hooper has been there ever since.
Markkanen, 22, took a step back in year three with the Bulls. After averaging 18.7 points and 9.0 rebounds during his sophomore season, he saw both of those averages drop in year three (14.7 PPG, 6.3 RPG).
In the wake of his disappointing season, there could be trouble in the Windy City. According to Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times, Markkanen would rather play for another team if things don’t improve with the Bulls.
The Good News
Before we say the bad news, let’s talk about all the reasons why Markkanen would be a perfect fit in New York. Make no mistake, he would be a welcome addition to New York’s young core.
For one, he and Mitchell Robinson would create a formidable frontcourt. The Knicks would be featuring two 7-footers on the floor together and Markkanen’s ability to knock down the three would make that tandem work. He’s a 35.6% career shooter from deep, but he’d surely have more open looks given the gravity Robinson creates when he dives to the rim.
Defensively, Robinson would help mask some of Markkanen’s deficiencies on that end of the floor. He’s not a complete liability, but he would definitely need Robinson’s help over the top.
During crunchtime, the Knicks would have serious lineup flexibility. Markkanen and Robinson can obviously play alongside one another in that situation. However, if a team tries to beat New York with small ball, Markkanen can flex to the five spot, if necessary. According to Basketball-Reference, he has played 23% of his career minutes at center.
The Robinson-Markkanen tandem jumps out immediately, but he should fit in well with the rest of the young guys as well. Markkanen’s shooting would open up more driving lanes for RJ Barrett and Ntilikina. Kevin Knox may have had a disappointing sophomore season, but he still possesses tons of upside.
Not to mention, the Knicks are going to wind up with a top-10 pick in the draft. There are a number of talented point guards that could wind up in New York. LaMelo Ball, Cole Anthony, and Tyrese Haliburton are just a few names that could come in to take over the position.
Would the Knicks be a playoff team in 2021 with a roster that is centered around Markkanen, Robinson, Barrett, and the 2020 lottery pick? Probably not.
However, the team would finally have a young group that fans could rally behind. Markkanen, Robinson, Barrett, Ntilikina, and Knox will all be 23 years old or younger at the start of the 2020-21 season. That’s not a bad group to build around.
The Bad News
Where do we begin?
First things first, the reports of Markkanen’s unhappiness doesn’t mean he’s a goner. Much like the Knicks, the Bulls are undergoing some front office changes and there’s a chance that this alone is enough to calm Markkanen.
A new face in the front office with a new plan could be enough to keep him from outright demanding a trade.
In addition to the chance for reconciliation in Chicago, the package needed to pry Markkanen away from Chicago will not be cheap. It’s safe to assume Barrett and Robinson are untouchable. Chances are the 2020 lottery pick is off limits as well.
Will any Knicks package without those pieces be enough to snag the Finn? The Knicks have a treasure chest of draft picks, but without a promising young player coming back in the deal, it’s hard to see Chicago biting.
And of course, the Knicks’ front office situation adds more uncertainty to the mix. Leon Rose recently took over as team president, but Scott Perry is still working as the general manager. The direction the front office wants to go is still a mystery at this point in time.
Markkanen would be a welcome addition to the Knicks’ young core, but that blockbuster trade is too good to be true.