Currently sitting in 12th place in the Eastern Conference, the Chicago Bulls are who we thought they were. Before the new year, the Bulls won 10 out of 16 games including seven straight wins giving Bulls’ fans a glimpse of what can be a solid team. Since then, the Bulls have cooled off and tallied a 5-9 record losing four straight.

Although just a rookie, Lauri Markkanen has shown promise for the Bulls. Baby Dirk is second on the team in scoring with 15.3 ppg behind Nikola Mirotic with 16.8 ppg. The rookie leads the Bulls in rebounds with 7.7 rpg to go along with the second most minutes per game played with 30.2 mpg.

Markkanen posted team highs with 33 points against the Knicks in a win that also saw the rookie tie Dirk Nowitzki’s record for most 3-points made in a game by a player 7-feet or taller with 8 shots made.  He also broke the record for fastest player to reach 100 3-point shots made, doing it in 41 games.

Among rookies, Markkanen stands at fourth in points per game. Donovan Mitchell – 19.2 ppg, Ben Simmons – 16.6 ppg, and Kyle Kuzma – 16.3 ppg, are all ahead of Markkanen. Simmons leads all rookies in rebounds per game with 7.9, and Markkanen follows.  He also leads all rookies in free throw percentage with .855 from the stripe. Simmons status as a “red-shirt rookie” is debatable, his exclusion will only bump up Markkanen’s stock to top 3 rookies in the NBA.

Markkanen will represent Team World in the 2018 Rising Stars Game during All-Star week. An honor that includes Simmons, Kuzma, Mitchell, Joel Embiid, and teammate Kris Dunn. Dunn will represent Team USA. The Rising Stars Game will give Markkanen an opportunity to show the NBA community his skill set and could set him up for the super-star spotlight.

After the departure of Jimmy Butler, and the fall of Chicago legend Derrick Rose, Markkanen healed open wounds, and has Bulls’ fans believing again. One thing is for sure, Lauri Markkanen is the real deal.

This article first appeared on isportsweb.com and was syndicated with permission.

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