Lauri Markkanen out 4-6 weeks after stress reaction in right pelvis, leaving Bulls with barely any bigs
Chicago is going to have to make a move just to fill its front-court minutes
The Chicago Bulls just can't catch a break. With virtually their entire front-court currently injured, Lauri Markkanen will now miss 4-6 weeks with what the team is calling "an early stress reaction of his right pelvis" after an MRI Thursday. At this point, it would practically be easier to list the Bulls front-court players who are not injured. Here is what the Bulls are dealing with at the moment.
- Wendell Carter Jr. has been out since Jan. 6 with a sprained ankle. He could be out for up to six weeks.
- Daniel Gafford has been out since Jan. 17 with a dislocated thumb. He is expected to miss between two and four weeks.
- Otto Porter Jr. has been out since Nov. 6 with a foot injury. It is unclear when he will return.
With Markkanen now out too, the Bulls are running out of options up front. The Bulls had already moved Luke Kornet into the starting lineup despite playing him only 12.6 minutes per game this season. Cristiano Felicio was forced to play 22 minutes per game off of the bench as well despite being held out of the team's first 40 games. With Markkanen out, both will likely have to play bigger minutes. Thaddeus Young is the only player remaining from Chicago's original front-court rotation.
Interestingly, Markkanen's absence appears to be more precautionary than anything else. K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago reported that if this were the playoffs, Markkanen would be playing tonight. That puts the Bulls in an interesting position, as the NBA in 2018 for resting healthy players in what appeared to be a tanking-based decision at the time. At 17-29 the Bulls are only 2.5 games out of the No. 8 spot in the Eastern Conference playoffs, so it is unlikely that this decision falls under the same umbrella, but a 4-6 week timetable is rare when a player theoretically could play on the night that timetable is announced.
If Markkanen really is out that long, Chicago's playoff chances are on life support. Markkanen was critical even before the Bulls lost all of their other big men. He is their second-leading scorer at 15 points per game, and their offense is 5.1 points per 100 possessions worse with him on the bench. The Bulls have no big men left to protect the rim, and with Markkanen out, they are running low on scoring as well. Barring a move to offset these losses, Chicago would need a miracle to stay in the playoff hunt now.
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An overview of the NBA's major injuries, regularly updated