Adding Strength The Focus For Bulls' Lauri Markkanen This Offseason

"He is a cornerstone," John Paxson says.

Mully & Haugh Show
April 13, 2018 - 11:12 am
Bulls big man Lauri Markkanen

Mike Dinovo/USA Today Sports

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(670 The Score) Bulls big man Lauri Markkanen had an impressive rookie season that exceeded even the expectations of the talent evaluators who drafted him.

After showcasing his skill set, the focus this offseason will now be on his body -- specifically adding strength. Markkanen has already headed back to his native Finland to visit with the season ending Wednesday, and he has a short stint committed to his national team near the end of June.

Beyond that, though, his focus will be on the Bulls. Markkanen isn't expected to join Finland's long basketball training camp later in the summer.

"For a kid like Lauri, he didn't get any (strength) training last summer," Bulls executive vice president of basketball operations John Paxson said on the Mully & Hanley Show on Friday morning. "He got drafted in late June, he played on the national team almost up until training camp. When we got him, he was just dead tired. He never even had a chance to work on his strength and his body. So that's going to be a primary focus for him initially."

Markkanen, 20, averaged 15.2 points and 7.5 rebounds while shooting 36.2 percent on a high volume of 3-pointers. Paxson had high praise for him at a season-ending press conference Thursday while explaining what the next step is in his basketball development.

"He is a cornerstone," Paxson said. "I’ve said this many times this year. We loved him in the draft, obviously, but we didn’t know what we had. I’m incredibly impressed with the poise he plays with. He rarely gets outside of himself. But Lauri, like Zach (LaVine) and Kris Dunn and all our guys, he has so much room to grow. That’s really what’s exciting about it. When I assess Lauri’s game, he obviously proved he can play on the perimeter with his shooting component. Last summer, he played with his national team. We didn’t get him in our building to do much of anything. He needs this summer to really work on his body, to get a base to him, get stronger. He needs to find areas on the floor inside the 3-point line where he can really be effective. He’s going to need to tighten up his handle, where he can maybe take one or two quick dribbles and pull-up. His footwork in isolation situations.

"With his size and his ability to shoot the ball, he should be able to get in areas on the floor where he can really dominate a game. He’s a young man and just one year in the league, but he at least from my seat, he exceeded expectations. And we believe we have a good one there and a foundational piece for everything we want to be and the way the game is being played. So yeah, we’re lucky. We feel very lucky he was part of that deal we made last summer."