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Trade business picking up for Bulls? Keep an eye on Lauri Markkanen

Thad Young might bring back the highest draft asset, but Markkanen could bring back an immediate young piece that would help this team move forward. Business is heating up, but will it be enough to sway the Bulls into being active by the deadline?

Questions continue to surround the Bulls’ Lauri Markkanen as the NBA trade deadline approaches.
Questions continue to surround the Bulls’ Lauri Markkanen as the NBA trade deadline approaches.
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Bulls coach Billy Donovan was expecting more on Monday.

The entire organization was.

Facing the Western Conference’s first 30-win team, Donovan was counting on Lauri Markkanen, Wendell Carter Jr. and Coby White to take advantage of that stage and show that the growing pains were behind them — or at least subsiding.

Markkanen was benched for a while and went 3-for-12 from the field with eight points in the loss. Carter scored six points and was a minus-15. White went 4-for-12, scoring 10 points, but was a minus-23.

“These are the kinds of games that Wendell and Lauri and Coby need to play in — high-level teams,’’ Donovan said. “Hopefully they can continue to learn and grow and get better in those situations.’’

Maybe they will.

It’s just unlikely to happen before the trade deadline on Thursday comes and goes.

And there’s the rub for this team. Zach LaVine now has All-Star on his résumé and is putting up career numbers across the board, but on far too many nights, he’s a solo act in search of consistent No. 2 scoring option.

In a perfect world, that option would’ve been Markkanen. On some nights, it is. Just not the nights when it matters most. Against the last three playoff-caliber teams — the Spurs, Nuggets and Jazz — Markkanen is 11-for-33 and averaging 9.3 points and 5.3 rebounds. That’s why he’s losing crunch-time minutes.

A source said there’s growing trade interest, however, in the 7-footer, and the Bulls are waiting for the best offer before making a decision on his future.

“I don’t think I deserved to be out there down the stretch against the Nuggets,’’ Markkanen said. “I trust Billy 100%. He doesn’t need to explain anything to me personally. If it comes up, we can talk about it. [Against the Jazz], he was trying to find a new lineup that worked. I’m not questioning him at all.’’

So the nominal No. 2 option basically has forced Donovan, who’s already employing a point guard-by-committee, to use a second scoring option-by-committee, as well.

That’s a lot of committees for a 19-23 team that’s fighting to stay in a play-in spot in the Eastern Conference.

The Bulls have assets they can move — Thad Young, Tomas Satoransky, Otto Porter’s expiring contract or even one of the younger pieces (Markkanen or Carter) — but they also have to make sure it’s the right move for a team caught somewhere between rebuilding and retooling.

Young might be the most attractive piece to move, especially for a first-round pick, but the likelihood of it being a lottery pick is small considering the contenders who would covet Young.

Young knows his name has been out there, but he’s unfazed by it all.

“The biggest thing for me is, as long as I’m here, I’m here to do a job, and that’s my focus: to do the job that I’m here to do, which is help these young guys and continue to play as hard as I can every night and help try to continue to win,’’ Young said. “So I haven’t really worried too much about the trade situation or haven’t discussed it or talked about it. Nor do I really even care to talk about it.

‘‘If it happens, it happens. I understand it’s a part of the business, and I understand how the business works. So whatever happens, happens, and I try to just control what I can control at all times.’’