Bulls sign first-round pick Lauri Markkanen as Summer League nears

SHARE Bulls sign first-round pick Lauri Markkanen as Summer League nears

The Bulls will begin to find out what they have in first-round draft pick Lauri Markkanen this weekend, when they start the defense of their Summer League title in Las Vegas.

On Wednesday, the Bulls announced the 7-foot Markkanen had signed his rookie contract. In accordance with team policy, terms of the deal weren’t released.

‘‘I know there’s work to do, like always,’’ Markkanen said of what he has in front of him, especially getting ready to play NBA defense. ‘‘I’m the type of person who’s going to be in the gym, and I’m going to work on that. I know I’m going to get better when I put the work in. I’m pretty confident that it’s going to happen.’’

The Bulls sure hope so, considering Markkanen is expected to be one of the cornerstones in the rebuild general manager Gar Forman and vice president of basketball operations John Paxson have chosen to take on.

Markkanen actually was drafted by the Timberwolves with the No. 7 pick, but the Bulls acquired him and guards Kris Dunn and Zach LaVine in a trade the same night for forward Jimmy Butler and the No. 16 pick.

In his one season at Arizona, Markkanen averaged 15.2 points and 7.2 rebounds and shot .423 from three-point range. He was named a third-team All-American by the Associated Press, the Sporting News and the National Association of Basketball Coaches.

Markkanen’s 576 points were the most by a freshman in Arizona history, and he and Kevin Durant are the only players in the last 25 years to make at least 69 three-pointers and grab more than 265 rebounds as college freshmen.

The Timberwolves thought highly enough of Markkanen that coach Tom Thibodeau told the Sun-Times last week that they would have kept him if they hadn’t traded for Butler.

As far as how the Bulls will use Markkanen in Las Vegas, they hope he will be able to play power forward and center. For his part, he said he was ready and able to play both.

‘‘I’m really comfortable doing both things,’’ he said. ‘‘I’ve played all five positions during my whole life. I started as a guard and last season played as a [center]. So I’m really comfortable doing both, defensively and offensively.’’

Follow me on Twitter @suntimes_hoops.

Email: jcowley@suntimes.com


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