Lauri Markkanen is Mitch Trubisky. Mitch Trubisky is Lauri Markkanen.

Saturday, 11 November 2017, 03:58:39 AM. It’s all about Lauri Markkanen and Mitch Trubisky this season. Both players, both teams, all about the rookies. It’s all about their progress.

Lauri Markkanen is Finnish for .

That’s my mnemonic for basketball season. It can be yours, too. I’m a pleaser, not a teaser. That’s the template I’m flopping over to the court to justify my viewing experience and not risk the urge to dunk my head in a bucket of battery acid.

It’s all about Markkanen and Trubisky this season. Both players, both teams, all about the rookies.

They’re young. They represent the future. They’re the only hope or the most important player on their rosters, or both.

It’s all about their progress. It’s all about their ability to adapt to the pro level. It’s all about the Bears and the Bulls following their shiny new first-round picks out of the muck of bad management, bad player evaluation and bad coaching.

Nine games into the Bulls season and eight games into the Bears year, that’s the conclusion I’ve come to. This comparison feels more awkward with Markkanen because the Bulls wanted everyone rooting for them to lose, and still do, thus making fans experience self-hate if they found something worth rooting for, and Markkanen was Exhibit No. 1.

Trubisky, meanwhile, was the object of any sane fan’s desire the moment he was drafted. The only people who didn’t want to see Trubisky play for the Bears were the Bears. Well, Bears management and coaching, anyway, those wonderful folks who declared 2017 to be Mike Glennon’s season. That resounds with stupidity no matter how far removed we get.

Markkanen followed a similar path, the backup who famously ascended to the starting lineup only after Bobby Portis broke Nikola Mirotic’s face.

I don’t know if both players will turn out to be heroes, but they demand the chance to try. If only their teams could remember that.

Because it’s a funny thing about these potential foundation players: Their teams forget about them.

In Tuesday’s loss in Toronto, Markkanen took just six shots (and still scored 12 points). Five games earlier, he took just seven shots against Oklahoma City (and still scored 15 points).

How do you forget about your leading scorer? Only the Bulls.

Markkanen also is the team’s leading rebounder, and while it might be early, it looks like he’ll be the only current player getting important minutes if the Bulls ever return to contention.

Just as the Bulls forget to run the offense through Markkanen, the Bears forget to do the same with Trubisky.

One game, the quarterback of the future threw just seven passes. The game before, just 16. This was done in the name of winning (code for saving John Fox’s job). But the Bears would be better off guaranteeing Trubisky 20 throws a game because this experiment needs to hurry along.

Like that, the calibration of my Mitch-O-Meter mirrors my Markkanen-O-Meter in several ways: Did he play better than his last game? Did he improve on things we know are weaknesses? Did he make plays and moves that reflect a growing IQ at the pro level?

One difference, however, is winning. This matters more to Trubisky than Markkanen right now because the Bulls are hoping to lose to improve their draft odds, and that, ladies and gentlemen, is the one thing at which the Bulls are doing a bang-up job.

Ideally, the Bears begin to win games in the second half of the season because of Trubisky, not just with him. Fox would have to let Trubisky come out and play on a regular basis. Trubisky would have to complete more than 60 percent of his passes instead of the measly 47.5 so far. Trubisky also would have to improve his red-zone accuracy and end drives with seven points.

But hey, at least Trubisky finally moved ahead of the punter and itty-bitty running back for TD passes.

Viewing Trubisky this way has helped me tolerate a bad season. Same goes for Markkanen. It has narrowed what I needed to care about. The rest is empty calories. Trubisky and Markkanen are the reasons to watch each team. They’re the GPS displaying where each franchise is going.

The only fear, then, is rooting for and believing in players selected by management wonks who didn’t know where to put them in the first place.

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