Bulls’ youth has already started the takeover just six games in

SHARE Bulls’ youth has already started the takeover just six games in
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ORLANDO, Fla. — Lauri Markkanen’s full arsenal was on display Wednesday night in Miami.

Yes, he scored a career-high 25 points in the loss, but the Bulls 7-footer wasn’t just hitting from long range. He was putting the ball on the floor, getting easy baskets off of pin-downs and even hitting a little floater.

The seventh overall pick this season shot 9-for-18 from the field and only hit two threes in his latest effort.

And really, no one around him was surprised.

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“No, you keep asking me if he surprises me,’’ veteran Justin Holiday said on Thursday of Markkanen’s latest effort. “We practice with him.

“He hasn’t had a practice like he had last game. Practice is so different. But he has had practices where he’s knocking down shots for sure. To tell you the truth, [Wednesday] night, most of his points came in the paint. Usually in practice, he’s shooting threes so that was obviously a good sign for him to do — get that ball and easy buckets in the paint.

“And then when the three-ball is falling, who knows what he can do? I don’t know if I’m a critic, but no, I’m not surprised. I expect him to play well.’’

Maybe, but very few could have expected this from Markkanen, especially just six games into his NBA career. The 20-year-old is averaging 17.2 points and 9.3 rebounds, and shooting just under 40 percent from three-point range.

All of this coming from a guy who is basically the first option on offense.

Memo to both Bobby Portis and Nikola Mirotic: You’re not getting that starting spot back.

“He showed a little bit of everything [against the Heat], and one thing we’ve been working on is trying to take advantage when teams switch against us,’’ coach Fred Hoiberg said of his prized rookie. “Even in transition when he ran to the rim, we got a couple duck-ins to him before the defense got set. So really good recognition by our guys to get him the ball, get him opportunities.’’

However, he wasn’t the only young Bulls player to stand out against the Heat.

Second-year point guard Kris Dunn had a stellar first half off the bench, before getting loose with the ball and committing key turnovers late in the game.

While Dunn graded his own performance a C-, many begged to differ.

“What I always tell him to do is make sure he’s aggressive,’’ Holiday said of Dunn. “That’s first and foremost what you want to do. Eventually, you’ll figure out when to hit guys and when to get buckets. What he does is what we need. We need to be able to get downhill, put pressure on the rim, have guys collapse. That makes the job easier for our shooters.

“Right now, especially with it being his second game back, just be aggressive and see what you have. And after he gets a few games in, if I need to, maybe go talk to him. But I thought he played well [Wednesday].’’

Hoiberg said he would go with the same starters Friday night against the Magic, but there’s no doubt that Dunn is going after Jerian Grant’s starting job.

“We all know the more you play, the more comfortable you get and the better you eventually start doing,’’ Holiday said. “Right now, we’ll just let [Dunn] play and go from there.’’

Follow me on Twitter @suntimes_hoops.

Email: jcowley@suntimes.com

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