Lauri Markkanen – what is the future for Scandinavian sensation in the NBA?

Lauri Markkanen
Photo: NBC Sports

When the Chicago Bulls selected Lauri Markkanen as a seventh pick in the 2017 NBA draft, there were many doubts about the decision. You just gave Jimmy Butler for a high pick – and are you spending it on a European sniper?

Considering that the Bulls hadn’t won a draft lottery in over 5 years, this looked even weirder. Let’s remember: Marquis Teague, Tony Snell, and Doug McDermott failed to live up to their expectations. To find Chicago’s last successful draft pick, we need to go back to 2011, when the Bulls selected Jimmy Butler and Nikola Mirotić in the first round. True, then the team was fundamentally different: one of the best clubs in the East with Derrick Rose, who received MVP, and Tom Thibodeau.

It feels like it all happened a million years ago.

And the Bulls didn’t even take the Finnish player to the preseason training camp! Everyone knew that Lauri was good at shooting, but this did not save him from a bunch of serious questions. Is he capable of guarding the paint like a centre? Does he have any variety in the attack? Or are we just getting a seven-foot McDermott?

In just 45 games in the NBA, Lauri answered all the tasks. He showed an impressive amount of athleticism. He is confident in defence and works really well. Markkanen is not only a great shooter but also a great defender.

Lauri Markkanen is the core of the Bulls’ future whether or not the Bulls envisioned it.

He can also finish the attack by not only passing by the others, but also by hammering through someone. The guy has a knack for dunks that look amazing. He can also come up with dribble shots which is even more impressive.

His success in the Chicago Bulls is really spectacular. Nordic countries in general nowadays do not have many high-quality players in the NBA and Markkanen has become a real discovery for them. The hype around the player circulated from Finland to other Nordic countries including Norway which showed extreme commitment and interest towards the Finnish player. It should be mentioned that not only Norwegian citizens started watching Markannen’s games, but also the betting industry turned its attention to him. Norwegian odds pages which are more known among local citizens as norske odds sider were also looking at Markkanen as an amazing player in the past. If we do not recall Torgeir Bryn Norwegians did not really have anyone to place their bets on. And as Markkanen improved and met his expectations betting sites all over the world started to notice him.

Markkanen is also already able to do everything himself while dribbling. He can go under the ring, or he can throw off with a stepback or make a jump shot. For a seven feet player, this is just some kind of madness. He’s poised to be one of the greatest “big” shooters in the NBA history

The guy is capable of being a player, who consistently shoots 40+ per cent from a distance. He releases the ball very quickly and needs a little space to shoot. Not many guys with this height can do that. 

Another skill of Lauri Markkanen is the ability to defend against an opponent with the ball at the corner of the court. All the big guys make mistakes in these situations, but Markkanen is not lost against players with such a difference in size. He moves well and can prevent an opponent from shooting without a foul. 

When you watch his games, you think that he made up for several years of progress. But he is only 23 and has a lot of room for improvement: his percentage will only improve, on the floor he will continue to develop, and his body will become more exercised.

Lauri will reach the All-Star Game. And he is already the cornerstone of the team. It is clear that the Bulls did not benefit from the Jimmy Butler trade because they gave a player of the MVP level. But Markkanen makes it easier to deal with the loss.

It should also be mentioned that at the Eurobasket 2017 Markkanen was not really at the top level. In the match against Italy, he was particularly confused, but for the first international experience at the senior level, Markkanen showed himself as an experienced guy with 5 years of experience in the NBA and acted in a clutch as if it were his native element.

It is clear that taking out Iceland and Poland is not playing against the Hornets or the Mavericks, but for a rookie, the Finnish player very quickly settled in the NBA. He is quick and outruns his defenders, shoots successfully when the opportunity arises and is really good at defending. An agile, high-speed seven-footer that only needs a little space to release the ball – isn’t that a real magic? He also needs to catch that golden mean, where he will become more powerful to fight under the ring, but will not lose his youthful lightness to play in attack. It is also possible that Markkanen at some point will leave the Bulls and join other top teams.