Markkanen bullish on balance to his game for Chicago

Lauri Markkanen of the Bulls has proven to be a scoring threat from inside and outside in his rookie season.

Lauri Markkanen’s calling card as a basketball player has been, and likely always will be, his ability to shoot.

However, to label him a one-trick pony… err, Bull, would not be doing the rookie justice.

With opposing players rushing to closeout on him at the 3-point line, Markkanen has displayed a diversified all-around floor game in his initial season in the NBA, as evidenced by his 22-point, 12-rebound performance in a 124-115 Chicago defeat by visiting Toronto on Wednesday night at the United Center.

Toronto (26-10) was very active defensively, the Bulls had to find ways to score.

The Raptors “were switching a lot so we tried to get the ball inside,” Markkanen told reporters after the game. “I can score many ways. I’m working on (my post game) all the time.

“So I feel pretty confident.”

Chicago coach Fred Hoiberg feels likewise about his 7-foot, 230-pound forward, a native of Finland. Markkanen is averaging 14.5 points, 7.6 rebounds and 1.3 assists in 29.7 minutes a game for the Bulls (13-25).

“When teams are switching, with his ability to punish down low, we have to be able to find him and continue to go at it when we’ve had success with it,” he told reporters. “He is showing stepback 3’s off the bounce. His midrange shot is really good. And his post game is improving by the day.

“I give our coaches a lot of credit for his skill development that he has continued to show, adding to things as defenses play him differently.”

On the season, Markkanen has split is field-goal attempts almost down the middle in terms of 2- and 3-point attempts. He has taken 227 shots inside the arc and 225 from 3. He is shooting a solid 49.3 percent on 2-point shots and 34.2 percent on 3-point attempts.

His performance this season harkens back to his one season at the collegiate level.

“Early in the season, it was just like here,” Markkanen said. “I scored more on the perimeter. Then I went inside more. It balanced out as the season went on.”

He’s also anxious to go to work on his body come the offseason.

“When I get stronger, I can get to my spots easier and finish easier around the rim better,” he said.