Go ahead and informally poll any number of Chicago Bulls fans after the recent NBA Draft Lottery selections, ask them if they like picking No. 7 in this year’s draft and you’d likely get a majority “no” decision.
Certainly after a season of misery and irrelevance as the Bulls have just suffered, Bulls Nation would have preferred to be gifted with something closer to the top 3 picks in the draft, but any griping comes with a degree of hypocrisy given that picking at No. 7 wasn’t bad at all for the Bulls in 2017.
The selection at that spot — Lauri Markkanen — provided continual returns in his rookie season and the success of the Finnish star has led to his being announced Tuesday afternoon as a member of the NBA’s all-rookie First Team. Also included on this team, which may go down as a significant one going forward, was two unanimous selections in Utah’s Donovan Mitchell and Philadelphia’s Ben Simmons as well as Boston’s Jayson Tatum, who was one point shy of being unanimous and Los Angeles Lakers leading scorer Kyle Kuzma.
Mitchell and Simmons lead the class in contending for this year’s Rookie of the Year honors, Simmons earning his honors in spite of continued discussion regarding his true classification. Check the latest odds on that award and all the NBA postseason awards along with live betting at SBG Global.
Markkanen came into this season well scrutinized, seen as a toss up commodity the Bulls were taking a risk on in the face of trading away Jimmy Butler to the Timberwolves. The Bulls got Markkanen’s draft rights along with Kris Dunn and Zach LaVine in the draft night deal, one that many clowned Chicago for making, but in the year since many have turned around on the deal and that in large part came from Markkanen’s first-year play — Markkanen averaged 15.2 points and 7.5 rebounds over 68 games, he tied for fourth among rookie scorers and ranked second in rebounding and free-throw percentage at 84.3 percent.
Tall enough to get minutes in the low post and with a good enough touch to break Kirk Hinrich’s rookie franchise record for 3-pointers, Markkanen showed himself to be quite a find, a near ideal modern player that the Bulls feel welcome to build with going forward.
“We believe we have a foundational piece for everything we want to be and the way the game is being played. We feel very lucky he was part of that deal we made last summer,” Bulls executive vice president John Paxson told the Chicago Tribune.
Markkanen goes down as the the 16th Bull to earn first-team All-Rookie honors with six others having been named to the second team, according to the Tribune. Nikola Mirotic last represented the Bulls on the all-rookie first team after the 2014-15 season.
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