Donovan Mitchell and Collin Sexton may have grabbed the headlines in the Utah Jazz-Cleveland Cavaliers exchange last week, but Lauri Markkanen is the player that’s been raising eyebrows this summer with his performances on the court in international basketball tournaments.
The former No. 7 pick in the 2017 NBA draft scored 43 points for the Finnish national team while snatching nine rebounds in a 94-86 win over Croatia on Sunday at the EuroBasket tournament. This was a follow-up to Markkanen's 28-point performance in the FIBA World cup vs. Israel two weeks ago.
Markannan was born in Vantaa, Finland, and then raised in Jyväskylä before signing a letter of intent to play basketball for the University of Arizona in 2015. There he was selected third-team All-American team by the Associated Press, USA Today, and the Sporting News. After one year in college, he entered the 2017 NBA draft and was selected in the top 10 by the Minnesota Timberwolves before being traded to the Chicago Bulls on draft night.
Markannan has averaged 15.4 points per game spanning his five-year career. The 7-foot forward has a unique skill set for his size that translates well in today's game. He can play multiple positions, but with how the Jazz roster is currently structured, he will most likely be starting at the power forward position.
Look for a spike in his career averages as the Jazz are in the midst of a rebuild. Sexton and Markannan are clearly the players that the new-look offense will run through, and I would expect both players to average 20 points per game at a minimum.
When you watch Markannan's highlights, his skill set reminds you of future Hall-of-Famer Dirk Nowitzki. Check out a few highlights below.
Time will tell whether there’s room to grow, but with what he’s done as the main option playing for Finland, there’s no reason to think that Markannen can’t take his game to another level with a higher usage rate. The Jazz will have three years to tap into his potential as he won’t be an unrestricted free agent until 2025.
It won’t be long before Jazz fans get their first glimpse of Markannan at Vivint Arena as the season starts in a little over a month.
Follow Patrick on Twitter @pbyrnesNBA.