Bulls forward Lauri Markkanen finally made his season debut, scoring 10 points in a 121-105 loss to the Rockets. Markkanen was sidelined with an elbow injury, causing him to miss 23 games.
Markkanen was understandably rusty, going from the 4-of-14 from the field and 2-of-6 from 3-point range. He played 26 minutes off the bench and it looks like the Bulls will attempt to ease him in slowly before running their offense through him.
After a strong rookie season, Markkanen was expected to take the next step as the Bulls continue to rebuild. His injury should temper expectations, but it looks like Markkanen will get back in the starting lineup soon. This will allow the Bulls to see how he fits with Wendell Carter Jr., who is having a great rookie season.
Chicago is off to a rough start this season, but management has stressed player development over wins and losses this season. Head coach Fred Hoiberg has showed signs of progress despite a record, meaning the Bulls are on the right path in their rebuilding effort. How Markkanen and Carter fit together on the court will be the best indicator of their long-term pairing and Chicago’s road back to contention.
The Bulls have had bad injury luck this season and haven’t been able to see how their core players fit together on the court. Markkanen’s return Saturday was the first step in that process.