We're less than 23 hours away from free agency, but who's counting? Time for another Green Target. I speculated in my last post that in addition to adding a point guard, Stevens will also bring in another big. I called both players "small splashes," but Lauri Markkanen would cause more waves than that description portrays.
The Chicago Bulls recently extended a qualifying offer to Markkanen, which was a no brainer. If Chicago is going to move on from Lauri, might as well get a good asset in return for 24-year-old big.
Markkanen would definitely check the box of a 4/5 that can shoot from the outside that I expect Brad Stevens to target. Again he's a bigger name than I was thinking, but with the Bulls the current favorite to land Lonzo Ball, rumors are out there that there is a good chance Lauri will be moved. The Bulls stars are Zach Lavine and Nikola Vucevic. While Lauri will only make $9 million this coming season, you either have to pay him next summer or risk losing the young, high lottery pick for nothing.
Like our Josh Richardson Green Target from last Tuesday that actually ended up happening, this would be another buy low situation. Boston doesn't have the assets to meet what the Bulls asking price used to be for Lauri. Check his stats from his 2018-19 season and you'll see why. But with free agency knocking on his door, the addition of Vucevic, him coming off down years, and Chicago needing cap flexibility to add Lonzo, the price is now much lower.
Unlike Richardson, you're not just getting Markkanen for a TPE. The Bulls will have offers beyond the "Sure we'll take his contract off your hands" type. Boston could use the TPE they just acquired for Tristan Thompson or they have the expiring contracts between Dunn, Fernando, and Jabari's non guaranteed deal. So now it comes down to what asset or assets are you giving them? If it's picks well there's your deal right there. Those 3 expiring/non-guaranteed deals and picks. If it's players, you'd be replacing one or more of those contracts with guys like Pritchard, Nesmith, Langford, Grant Williams, Robert Williams, Yam Madar, or Juhann Begarrin. Or a combination of picks and players. All depends on the player.
If it's Time Lord then the Bulls aren't getting back any other assets. But the goal for the Celtics would be for Time Lord and Markkanen to be the team's two bigs of the future. They'd be the long term plan while Horford was in the mix short term, so obviously you don't want Time Lord to be the guy. A shooter like Nesmith might make sense for the Bulls to play next to a Ball/Lavine backcourt. Likely would take additional asset more than Nesmith, but you can start to see where a match might take place.
I'm sure the Bulls would like Pritchard as well, but since they'd be investing big dollars in Ball to be their point guard and they still have recent high pick Coby White on the roster, thinking Boston could retain the promising 2nd year point guard. Madar is likely safe too. Another point guard. Grant Williams could be included as a more enticing piece than just an expiring deal, but don't hold your breath on him being highly sought after by the Bulls or any other team for that matter.
Grant Williams would be a cheap replacement for Chicago as a back-up big. Typically fans have inflated opinions of the value of our young guys compared to another team's so if you're thinking, "I can't see Nesmith and Grant Williams being the Bulls best offer JR!" you are right to question it. But there is a match somewhere to be made between the assets the Celtics have to trade and the cost to trade for Markkanen.
What makes Markkanen so ideal as a big for this Celtics roster is not only the fact that you can play him (40% 3-pt shooter) next to Time Lord, but he also can be your small ball 5. And if you want to play two bigs that can shoot, you can play him alongside Horford. Having a line-up on the floor where both your 4 and 5 can hit 3's allows you to play a guard who isn't as great from beyond the stripe.
Udoka as an assistant coach in Philly saw Richardson struggle. It made sense though. He was driving into a lane with defenders due to Embiid's presence there. Add in the fact that Simmons' defender could sag off him a great deal and no wonder Richardson struggled. Having stretch big options to compliment the minutes that Richardson is on the floor for Boston is ideal. Honestly in today's NBA stretch bigs make it easier for everyone. Lauri keeping his defender out on the perimeter would help both Tatum and Brown on drives. Smart too.
What say you? Is Lauri the ideal stretch 4/5 big to compliment the Celtics current two bigs that is available or is there someone else on your mind? We tend to do Green Targets on buy low players, so I'm aware that he regressed the past two years. But if he didn't he wouldn't even be an option. Based on his young age and what he did his first two years in the league he seems like a solid low risk, high reward option. And if we're going to lose out to the Bulls in the Lonzo chase, might as well get a nice consolation prize out of it right?