Just three seasons ago, forward Lauri Markkanen was a breakout candidate for the Chicago Bulls. He averaged nearly 19 points and nine rebounds a game in 2019, and fans were excited to see him take that next step. However, he did not take that next step, for both Chicago or Cleveland. But now, he is in Utah, part of the Donovan Mitchell trade, and he may be the most surprising player on the 4-1 Utah Jazz.
Lauri Markkanen in the Paint
So far this season, Markkanen is averaging 22.0/8.8/3.0 on a 57.5% true shooting percentage. It is worth noting that Markkanen is shooting a career-high 17.2 shots per game. Despite the higher volume, he is also shooting 48.8% from the field, also a career-high. In addition, his offensive rating so far this season is 120.
The biggest difference so far is that he is relying on 2-pointers more than any other point in his career. While Lauri Markkanen is usually a solid three-point shooter, he is only at 24% so far. As an alternative, he has been getting a lot of his points closer to the basket. Currently, Markkanen is shooting 85% at the basket and 54% between three to ten feet. On film, he has been doing a mix of running in transition, driving to the basket, and cutting off-ball. As a 7’0 wing, he has always been comfortable as a ball-handler, and it shows in how he brings the ball up the court in transition.
Lauri Markkanen is a problem. He lived up to his “Finnisher” nickname Wednesday night, with 9 of his 10 FGs coming in the paint. The Jazz move to 4-1 behind Lauri’s 24 points and nine rebounds. #TakeNote pic.twitter.com/BmJkm7Qb2S
— Brett Usher (@UsherNBA) October 27, 2022
Markkanen The Passer
Despite being a competent ball-handler, especially for his size, Markkanen has never been a good passer. He has never averaged over 1.5 assists per game in his career, and he averaged more turnovers per game in three seasons. This year has been different, as he is averaging three assists per game to 1.8 turnovers.
A lot of his assists are not the flashiest plays in the world, but they are still intriguing. He has several plays so far where he brings the ball up the floor and finds an open shooter in the corner. In the Minnesota game, there was a play where Markkanen was at half-court with Jordan Clarkson coming off a curl screen. It led to Clarkson being able to get a floater on the play. Against Denver, there were moments of him doing a drive and kick to an open shooter in the corner. Including one he was guarded by Nikola Jokic. Markkanen starts to drive on Jokic before delivering a cross-court bullet pass over to Collin Sexton in the corner for an open three.
What Will His Season Look Like?
The Utah Jazz could very well be the surprise of the NBA world in the first month of the season. Utah was looked at as a contender for the 1st overall pick in the 2023 NBA Draft. It remains to be seen if the Jazz will lean into competing due to their hot start or stick with their plan to rebuild.
Lauri Markkanen is off to the best and most efficient start of his career. He has found a way to make things work in Utah despite his three-pointer, one of his signature skills of his, not going in early. But at 25 years old, Markkanen may finally have his breakout season.
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