Lauri Markkanen and the Tank Race

The game was never close, and no one expected it to be. The Toronto Raptors obliterated the Chicago Bulls 117-100 in each team's season opener. Robin Lopez was consistent as always, but that was the only thing similar about this year's Bulls team compared to last. Lauri Markkanen played well, and he was probably the lone bright spot in the game for Chicago. The Finnish forward moved nimbly up and down the court, and demonstrated some serious offensive potential. His shooting stroke looked pure and NBA-ready. He struggled to handle the ball, although no one will expect him to do so this early in his career. He committed three turnovers but had one of the better plus-minus ratings on the team. Markkanen finished the game with 17 points on 5-of-12 shooting. He was 2-of-6 from beyond the arc and 5-of-6 from the free throw line. The Bulls first-round draft pick also pulled down eight rebounds; six defensive and two offensive. Most of his scoring came late in the game. 

Markkanen logged 33 and 1/2 minutes, but he played his best in the second half after some understandable nerves settled. He was noticeably more confident on the floor in the third and fourth quarters. Perhaps the most important part about the second half explosion from Markkanen? Chicago outscored the Raptors 63-59 during that stretch. It wasn’t all peaches and roses. There were blemishes in Lauri’s game and some glaring deficiencies on defense. However, he had one of the strongest debuts of any rookie from the 2017 NBA Draft. He might not be a franchise-altering superstar, but Lauri Markkanen proved on Thursday he can be a legitimate NBA player. At the very least, he will provide some entertainment for a relatively unentertaining 2017-2018 Chicago Bulls team.

The Bulls could have rolled over and lost last night’s game by 30 or 40 points, but they battled until the clock hit 0:00. However, what’s most important is that Chicago notched an L in the win-loss column. The Bulls will strive for a top draft pick this season in an effort to rebuild the franchise into a perennial contender. There is one thing standing in the way of Chicago obtaining a top three draft pick: very bad basketball teams.

It seems as if the fight for the bottom team will be intriguing. The Indiana Pacers and Brooklyn Nets proved that neither team will be able to play defense; with the Nets winning 140-131. Orlando managed to beat Miami, although some believe the Magic will be vying for a bottom-five record in the league. The Kings put up a valiant effort in a home loss to Houston. Phoenix lost by 48 points to Portland. The Lakers lost by 16 to the Clippers. The Lakers and Suns might be the stiffest competition for the top pick in the 2018 draft. However, after just one game, it’s clear that there are plenty of teams capable of losing on any given night.

Before the season began, many analysts and “experts” pegged the Chicago Bulls as the worst or second-worst team in the entire league. While this may end up being true, the first round of NBA games proved that the Bulls will have some fierce competition in the race to the bottom of the barrel. For the diehard basketball fan, the league is as intriguing at the bottom as it is at the top. To have the best chance at future success, Chicago must perform like they did on Thursday. The Bulls need to lose in aesthetically pleasing fashion while showing great growth and development from its young players. Lauri looked the part, the Bulls lost, and that’s all that matters for now.  


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