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Chicago Bulls power forward Lauri Markkanen is reportedly expected to make his season debut Saturday against the Houston Rockets.
According to K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune, Markkanen will play if he gets through warm-ups without issue, but the Bulls have yet to determine if he will start or come off the bench.
Regardless of how he is utilized, Markkanen will be on a minutes restriction.
Markkanen had an encouraging debut season as he earned first-team All-Rookie honors in 2017-18 after getting selected No. 7 overall out of Arizona. He averaged 15.2 points and 7.5 rebounds and also shot 36.2 percent from three-point range.
He injured his elbow in practice prior to the start of the 2018-19 campaign, which caused him to miss Chicago’s first 23 games.
Although the Bulls signed Jabari Parker to a two-year, $40 million deal this summer, they remain in rebuilding mode. Missing Markkanen for the start of the season didn’t help matters, either.
The Bulls are off to a disappointing 5-18 start, but Markkanen’s return could provide a significant boost to a frontcourt that has primarily featured Parker and rookie Wendell Carter Jr.
Power forward Bobby Portis has appeared in just four games this season because of a knee injury, so Markkanen will add some much-needed depth.
Look for Parker and Carter to get the bulk of the minutes up front on Saturday, but once Markkanen shakes the rust off, it could result in Parker either being relegated to the bench or playing more small forward in place of Justin Holiday.