During his one-and-done season at the University of Arizona, Lauri Markkanen showed off his dynamic offensive abilities on nightly basis.
At 7-feet tall, the Finnish sensation averaged 15.6 points and 7.2 rebounds over 30.8 minutes and also shot an astounding 42.3 percent from three-point range. He also displayed a clutch factor during his team’s postseason play. Therefore, he emerged as an elite prospect for his ability to stretch the floor as a frontcourt player, especially in the perimeter-oriented style of play that is featured in today’s NBA.
The Chicago Bulls landed him with the seventh overall pick as a result of the Jimmy Butler trade with the Minnesota Timberwolves.
In his rookie campaign, Markkanen drew comparisons to Kristaps Porzingis for his ability to knock down deep shots and showed off his elite offensive skill set on a nightly basis, even showing off some Dirk Nowitzki-esque moves. Overall, he averaged 15.2 points and 7.5 rebounds in 29.7 minutes per game. He also knocked down 36.2 percent of his three-point shots, knocking down 145-for-401 attempts overall.
In doing so, he became the fastest rookie in NBA history to reach 100 made threes. That includes every position. Considering the number of impactful rookie guards that have recently entered the league, that’s an astounding fact.
Therefore, his potential is off the charts and he projects to be a major building block for the team moving forward. But, he, like every player going into his second season, had a few things to work on this summer: his slim physique and defensive prowess, both of which go hand-in-hand in a way.
Judging by his recent comments, he may look slightly different in the fall.
“Everybody has been saying I’m bigger, but I don’t know about all that,” Markkanen told K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune this week. “I just know I feel good. … I’ve put on about 14 pounds. In general, I feel stronger. Hopefully, I can keep this weight up and play with it because I feel it will help my game.”
It remains to be seen whether or not the extra muscle mass affects his shot or not, but if he’s able to build off of his rookie year and take strides forward, the Bulls will have an All-Star level player suiting up at power forward for years to come.
At times, Markkanen was exposed on the defensive end of the court last season. Now, since he bulked up a bit, he should be in a better position to challenge whoever attempts to back him down in the paint or push him around while fighting for rebounds.