Lauri Markkanen apparently doesn’t do big-picture questions.
Asked Tuesday if the Bulls’ latest rash of injuries — including his own sprained shoulder — could affect whether they’re buyers or sellers ahead of the March 25 trade deadline, he colored inside the lines.
“You’re really thinking far ahead,” he said with a chuckle. “Yeah, we don’t worry about that stuff. We come in every day just trying to get better and help the team.”
Smart answer — although also naïve if he actually believes changes aren’t coming.
Fact is, while the Bulls have shown huge improvements from game to game, the standings are still the standings, and the Bulls dropped to 9-14 after their loss to the Wizards on Monday night — just a game better than they were at this point last season. They’re also now down four bodies in the frontcourt, with blurry timetables for when Markkanen, Wendell Carter Jr. (quadriceps), Otto Porter Jr. (back) and Chandler Hutchison (personal reasons) will return.
And, oh, by the way, their next five games are against the Pelicans, Clippers, Pacers, Hornets and 76ers, four of which would be seeded sixth or higher in the playoffs if the postseason started today.
Although Arturas Karnisovas, the Bulls’ executive vice president of basketball operations, is said to still be evaluating the roster, at some point soon, a real conversation is going to have to take place about its immediate makeup.
“We’re going to probably sit down and say, ‘OK, what do we want the identity of a Bulls player to look like? What does that look like for us?’ ” coach Billy Donovan said. “But I think before you can have that [discussion], [you want] these guys [to] have done everything they could as far as putting their best foot forward. I really feel like they bought in on trying to get better, trying to improve each and every day. Are there some flaws? Are there some deficiencies? Are there some areas that we’re just not as good as we want to be? Absolutely. Dealing with some injuries? That doesn’t help. . . .
“I think Arturas, just my time with him, is a very patient guy, and he’s a very observant guy, and he’s a very, very bright guy. He’s evaluating everything and looking at every-thing, and I really trust and believe he’s going to want to make decisions that I know are going to help the Chicago Bulls.”
If they continue to sputter, the Bulls may have one thing working in their favor: a seller’s market. Many high-priced players projected to be part of the 2021 free-agent class are now unavailable, and with the playoffs expanded, there likely will be more buyers.
No Bull is untouchable. Even rookie forward Patrick Williams, the No. 4 draft pick in November, may have a price.
It’s not time to make those calls yet, but the realities of the next few weeks could speed up the process.
“I’m not going to ultimately, at the end of the day, be making those decisions,” Donovan said. “Using the words ‘buyer’ or ‘seller,’ whatever it may be, I think it’s Arturas’ job to do the best job he can for the organization.”