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Dunn, Markkanen earn spots in Rising Stars game

remember when the younger and more athletic Bulls didn’t have a single guy in this game last year?

NBA: Chicago Bulls at Orlando Magic Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

For the first time since 2009, there will be no Chicago Bulls representation in the NBA All-Star game.

That’s the bad news. Here’s the good news.

The Rising Stars game, which goes down on Feb. 16 at 8 p.m., pits 10 first or second year American-born players against 10 first or second year NBA players born in other parts of the world.

Ironically, Lauri Markkanen (Finnish descent) and Kris Dunn (born in Connecticut) will play against each other for the first time in their respective careers.

Markkanen has been one of the very best rookies in the NBA this season, and if Philadelphia 76ers guard Ben Simmons didn’t have his rookie status intact we could very well be looking at Markkanen as the Rookie of the Year. He is sixth amongst rookies in player efficiency rating, fourth in points per game, second in rebounds per game, and first in 3-point field goals made.

Given Dunn’s catastrophic rookie season, his invitation to the Rising Stars game in his second season speaks to how dramatically he has evolved as a player. He’s improved across the board statistically from year one to year two, is a game changer defensively at times, and has been the Bulls best point guard by far this season.

The rebuild has yielded some results after the ‘younger and more athletic’ 2017 team had zero players worthy of this notoriety. Since the inaugural Rising Stars game in 1994 (with Toni Kukoc as a participant), here have been the Bulls qualifiers:

  • Nikola Mirotic (2016).
  • Taj Gibson (2010, 2011), Derrick Rose (2010, 2009)
  • Luol Deng (2005, 2006), Ben Gordon (2006), Andres Nocioni (2006), Kirk Hinrich (2004, 2005)
  • Jay Williams (2003), Tyson Chandler (2003), Marcus Fizer (2002), Khalid El-Amin (2001), Elton Brand (2000, 2001)