The job of a lead executive is to do due diligence, especially during trade season.
With the March 25 trade deadline two days away, Artūras Karnišovas appears to be doing just that. According to The Athletic's Shams Charania, there are teams interested in trading for Lauri Markkanen and the Bulls are listening.
That doesn't necessarily mean Markkanen is on the outs. As Billy Donovan said of trade deadline deals in general before the Bulls tipped off a 120-95 loss to the Utah Jazz at the United Center Monday night: "It takes two parties to make it work."
But Markkanen's performance in that game -- 8 points on 3-for-12 shooting in just 19 minutes -- was emblematic of his inconsistency since flirting with a star turn in his second NBA season. Markkanen is averaging 17.7 points on career-best shooting splits through 22 appearances in his fourth year, but the ancillary components of his game -- rebounding, foul-drawing, shot-creating, facilitating and defending -- have all either stagnated or regressed.
Karnišovas, meanwhile, has praised Markkanen at every turn. In the run-up to the 2020-21 season, he said the organization wanted Markkanen to stick around "for a long time." In a March 1 press conference, while Markkanen was sidelined with a shoulder sprain, Karnišovas said he was meeting preseason expectations while healthy.
But those offseason comments came before Bulls brass and Markkanen landed $4 million apart (annually) in extension negotiations, failing to reach an agreement by the offseason deadline. Since returning from that shoulder sprain post-All-Star break, Markkanen is averaging 15.3 points, 5.8 rebounds and less than two free-throw attempts per game; he's 7-for-23 from 3-point range in his last four contests.
Again, taking calls is Karnišovas' job. Any team can be interested in any player. But Markkanen's looming restricted free agency this offseason makes this smoke all the more fascinating, especially considering, as our K.C. Johnson wrote last week, there have been "whispers throughout the league all season of a potential Markkanen for Lonzo Ball swap."
“I’m not making any predictions on that. I’m going day-by-day and controlling what I can control,” Markkanen recently said when asked to predict if he'd be a Bull post-deadline. “I’m 100 percent committed, and that’s how it still is.”