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Jazz breakout star Lauri Markkanen: ‘I know I’ve gotten better as a player’

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Jazz breakout star Lauri Markkanen - 'I know I've gotten better as a player'
USA Today Network

Utah Jazz forward Lauri Markkanen is having the best season of his career. The 25-year-old’s performances right now cannot help but make fans wonder whether playing in the Eastern Conference held him back all these years. Perhaps Utah just has a superior system.

“I know I’ve gotten better as a player, gotten more mature as a person, so I think it just takes time to evolve,” Markkanen said. “Just sometimes I feel like I’m in the right place at the right time clicking with the coaching staff, system and the guys I’m surrounded with. It’s a different path for everybody.”

Per multiple NBA betting sites, the Jazz possess the eighth-lowest odds to win the championship. Check out which sportsbooks are giving the Minnesota Timberwolves and Sacramento Kings greater odds to make the playoffs.

“I’m just happy for him. He’s 100% an All-Star in my book,” mentioned Bulls guard Zach LaVine, Markkanen’s former teammate. Last season, in 61 starts with the Cleveland Cavaliers, Markkanen averaged 14.8 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 1.3 assists per game. Also, he shot 44.5% from the floor and 35.8% beyond the arc.

Through 40 starts this season, the Jazz wing is averaging career highs of 24.5 points, 8.3 boards, and 1.9 assists per contest. In addition to logging 14 double-doubles with Utah, he’s shooting career bests of 52.9% from the field and 41.5% from 3-point range.

Future All-Star Lauri Markkanen feels he fits in best with the Jazz

Last Thursday, in Utah’s 131-114 win over the Houston Rockets, the forward scored a career-high 49 points in 37 minutes of action. Markkanen finished 15-of-27 (55.6%) shooting from the floor and 6-of-15 (40%) outside the arc. Not to mention, he knocked down all 13 of his free throws.

Furthermore, sportsbooks show Markkanen with the second-best odds to win NBA Most Improved Player of the Year in the coming months. He trails Oklahoma City Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who’s also displaying impressive performances.

Donovan Mitchell is posting career-best numbers with Cleveland. However, maybe the Jazz-Cavaliers trade was a bigger blockbuster deal than fans first thought. Utah benefitted more by receiving five future first-round draft picks. But Jazz executives were not expecting Markkanen to have a breakout season as well.

Mitchell is averaging 28.8 points, 3.9 rebounds, 4.8 assists, and 1.4 steals through 36 starts with the Cavs. Aside from steals, Markkanen’s numbers are identical. There is not a large gap in talent and production.

Moreover, the sixth-year guard is not as accurate this season compared to the future Jazz All-Star. Mitchell is shooting 48.8% from the field and 40.5% behind the arc.

James is a Basketball Insiders contributor. He earned his bachelor's degree in English and Creative Writing at Southern New Hampshire University. James enjoys watching sports and helping gamblers win money.

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