Lauri Markkanen and Cameron Payne

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Now that the season is over, let’s take a look at some of the individual players for the Chicago Bulls and see how their 2017-2018 season went. First up for the player report cards: Lauri Markkanen and Cameron Payne.

Cameron Payne: B

After being acquired by the Bulls during the middle of last season, there were a lot of questions surrounding Cameron Payne – there was also a lot of negativity. Let’s be honest, he struggled mightily during his brief stint with the Bulls last season. Then an injury set him back for this season. The frequently debated topic surrounding Cameron Payne this season was whether or not he even belonged in the NBA.

Even though he only played in 25 games this season, he sure proved all the doubters wrong – he definitely belongs in this league.

Payne averaged 9 points and 5 assists per game this season. While these aren’t necessarily gaudy numbers, they’re nice stats for a backup point guard – especially considering what he was averaging before this season.

Not only did Payne increase his overall statistical output this season, but he also increased his efficiency – something he was frequently knocked for in the past. Payne’s assist/turnover ratio this season was approximately 5:1. That’s really impressive considering his assist/turnover ratio last season was approximately 2:1. Payne is being more decisive with the ball in his hands and looks like a more confident player all around.

The confidence shows in his shooting numbers as well. He shot a career-high 3.6 three-point attempts per game this season and connected on 39 percent of them – shattering his previous shooting percentages from behind the arc.

You can see the confidence oozing out of him during this possession:

I’m not saying he’s going to be an All-Star, all I’m saying is that the Bulls seem like they’ve found a quality backup point guard to keep around as they rebuild this team. So based on the negative opinions of Cameron Payne coming into the season, and then seeing the positive way he performed – he gets a B.

Nice work, Cameron Payne.

Lauri Markkanen: A+

This A+ grade doesn’t mean I think Lauri Markkanen is the best player in the NBA, it simply means that he did infinitely more than everyone expected he would do this quickly so he deserves nothing short of an A+ grade for his rookie year.

Markkanen averaged 15 points and 8 rebounds in less than 30 minutes per game. Those are impressive rookie numbers. In fact, among all rookies, he finished fourth in scoring (first in points for among rookies that played less than 30 minutes per game, however), second in rebounding, and fourth in efficiency. If he isn’t on the All-Rookie First Team, it will be the biggest snub in Chicago Bulls history.

Okay, maybe not the biggest in Bulls history – but I would definitely be mad.

Markkanen entered the draft with many doubting his ability to rebound – he’s averaging a nice 8 boards per game. Everyone also thought he would be a defensive liability. While there’s a lot of work left to be done on that end of the floor, he is by no means a liability and he has shown that he has high defensive upside. Moral of the story is… everyone (including myself) was wrong about Lauri.

Take a look at this:

Two things:

  1. That is some elite company. The other four guys on that list are all going to be in the Hall of Fame (I made myself laugh with this one).
  2. Markkanen was a rookie. A rookie. Wait, what? Yes, a rookie. I’m guessing that record will belong to him sooner than later.

Oh yeah, and how about those worries about his ability to take defenders off the dribble?

Nah, not so much.

Markkanen deserves a lot of credit for the Bulls having the bright future that they do. He’s the main piece, the cornerstone of the franchise – the future All-Star. Markkanen is a stud and did everything and more that you could possibly ask for during his rookie season. Yes, he has areas to improve in over the offseason, but for his rookie season… I couldn’t be happier.

Good work, Lauri.

 

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