Chicago Bulls big man Lauri Markkanen has been upgraded to probable for the Bulls’ Saturday night matchup with the Houston Rockets, according to the team. Markkanen has missed Chicago’s first 23 games with a sprained right elbow suffered at the beginning of training camp.
The Bulls are still determining if Markkanen will start or come off the bench, and he’s going to be on a minutes restriction, according to K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune.
Markkanen’s return to the lineup will be monumental for head coach Fred Hoiberg’s squad. The Bulls are in the midst of a rebuild, and Markkanen’s development is one of the most important aspects of the rebuild. The Finnish big man’s rookie season was strong enough to warrant a spot on the NBA’s All-Rookie first team last season.
Markkanen averaged 15.2 points and 7.5 rebounds in 68 games. The 7-foot power forward also shot 36.2 percent from deep, warranting comparisons to fellow European stretch big man Kristaps Porzingis.
When healthy, Markkanen is a dynamic scorer who can slice up defenses in a variety of ways. The Bulls are hoping they found his frontcourt partner of the future in the most recent draft. Wendell Carter Jr. is a skilled big man and a gifted passer. The two bigs could complement one another nicely. Bulls fans should have their first glimpse at that frontcourt on Saturday.
Despite the rough start to the season, Bulls fans can take solace in the fact that two of their most promising young players, Lauri Markkanen and Wendell Carter Jr., are 21 and 19, respectively. That should make the 5-18 start to the season easier to bear. Add in the fact that the Bulls will add another young talent to the roster next year, and the rebuild isn’t looking so bad.