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Bulls free agency rumors: Lauri may have a suitor

the Charlotte Hornets have entered the market

Chicago Bulls v Charlotte Hornets Photo by Kent Smith/NBAE via Getty Images

The Bulls have done a lot already this offseason, but one of the few remaining items is what to do about Lauri Markkanen.

It was previously assumed that he’d be involved in sign-and-trade for either Lonzo Ball or DeMar DeRozan. However you need all parties to actually agree, and rumor has it Lauri was seeking more money than those other teams were willing to pay him.

After several days of acquisitions around the league, not many teams have the cap flexibility, let alone outright cap space, to sign Markkanen to an offer sheet. But late on Thursday, a suitor emerged: the Charlotte Hornets.

Shams Charania of The Athletic words it as ‘potential interest in an offer sheet’, but I’m not clear where they ave outright space to sign Markkanen to what he’s looking for. I believe they’re at less than $10M in space after a draft-night trade to take on Mason Plumlee from the Pistons. But they do have needs in the frontcourt, and Lauri is more similar to their LaMelo Ball -led timetable.

(also I could be wrong about their remaining space, and as we know there are ways to generate more in a pinch)

UPDATE 8/6: The Hornets signed Kelly Oubre to a 2-year deal on Thursday night, effectively vaporizing their remaining cap space. So any Lauri deal would have to be a sign and trade.

So this could be a threat to get the Bulls moving on Markkanen’s new destination, perhaps preempted by sign-and-trade negotiations (once an offer sheet is signed, you can’t do a sign/trade).

It’ll be interesting to see who has the leverage when working out compensation. The Bulls can always threaten to match any offer, and they have frontcourt depth needs of their own, but I don’t think either them nor Markkanen want him to remain in Chicago. The Hornets have their own picks to offer (update: they do not have their own 2022 1st rounder, it’s committed to the Knicks), plus a protected first from New Orleans that they just acquired in their own sign-and-trade of Devonte Graham.