Lauri Markkanen rated as a Top-50 talent in the NBA by ESPN's Top 100 list

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As hinted at in our first look at ESPN's Top 100 NBA players list, Lauri Markkanen has officially cracked the top-50

ESPN's Real Plus-Minus (RPM) predicts that Markkanen will add 3.4 (RPM) wins over the 2019-20 season, more than double what they predicted for him on last year's list (1.4 RPM wins).

After being predicted for those 1.4 RPM wins last season, Markkanen actually greatly outperformed that number, finishing with 3.25 RPM wins in 2018-19. So there is a precedent for 'Lauri Legend' to shock the world again (this season), even if there is more general optimism about the Bulls' current outlook. 

Markkanen made quite a leap from his No. 66 ranking in last year's list and a big reason was his consistency as a shooter--he shot better than 36% from 3-point range in each of his first two seasons--combined with a hot stretch in February that ESPN's Chris Herring mentioned in the piece.

 The Finnish 7-footer was on the biggest tear of his career, averaging 26.5 points and 12.5 rebounds in February on 49% shooting overall and 38% from 3

-Chris Herring on Markkanen's dominant February 

The No. 50 ranking placed Markkanen ahead of Celtics wing Jaylen Brown and right behind Warriors sharpshooter Klay Thompson. It is a fitting spot for the Finnish forward, as he has generally outperformed many of his young peers, but will need to show the consistency and big-game ability of a player like Thomspon to continue his ascent to bona fide superstar status.

Herring went on to mention how Markkanen and Zach LaVine slowly started to develop chemistry together during that February stretch, something the Bulls will need exponentially more of if they want to be competitive this season.

There has been a positive light shone on the Bulls organization this offseason for their solid roster moves that have finally flanked their young talent with versatile (and dependable) veteran players, but how far the team goes this year will fall on the shoulders of LaVine and Markkanen. 

In 2018-19 Markkanen averaged 18.7 points and 9.0 rebounds while playing 32.3 minutes per game, all career-highs.

Without diving too deep in the numbers--you can get that information here--Markkanen did everything you could possibly ask for out of a second-year player.

He increased his free throw attempt rate, proved to be a great rebounder and increased his usage rate while also increasing his offensive rating. The true mark of an NBA superstar is being able to maintain your offensive efficiency while taking on larger and larger shares of your team's offensive possessions, and 'The Finnisher' is doing just that.

Clips showing Markkanen getting a workout in with Be More Basketball training group have started to circulate over the past few days and the noticeably stronger Lauri looks confident and poised for a big season. That being said, he hasn't let any positive publicity dimish his drive.

The Bulls ultimately ended up with three players on ESPN's top 100 NBA players list, a pretty strong indication that again, while the postseason is not guaranteed, it is a real possibility for a team with a bit of continuity and a lot of untapped potential.

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