NBA Draft Profile: Lauri Markkanen

Arizona forward Lauri Markkanen, left, shoots as Washington State guard Josh Hawkinson (24) attempts the block in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Thursday, Feb. 16, 2017, in Pullman, Wash. (AP Photo/Kai Eiselein)

Lauri Markkanen

7-0, 230 lbs.



STRENGTHS: We might have to come up with a new nickname for Kristaps Porzingis, because with this kid (and to a lesser extent) Jonathan Isaac, his game isn’t quite unique anymore. Porzingis is less unicorn and more mountain zebra–it’s still rare, but we’ve discovered other members of the species out there.

Markkanen shot 42.3% from long range last year and averaged 2 made threes in over 4 attempts per. Watching him play, it’s almost like your eyes deceive you—there’s no way a guy who looks that natural on the wing, shoots the ball with a textbook stroke and has such fluidity of motion–even on the dribble drive–can be seven feet tall. He’s like an optical illusion–you forget that he’s seven feet until he gives up the ball, and then his head seems to jump a few vertical pixels on your screen.

The Jyvaskyla, Finland native averaged an easy 15.6 points and 7.2 boards per last season and shot nearly 50 percent from the floor.

The Porzingis comparison is always going to be there, but this kid moves even better, and is less clunky and methodical on the drive.

WEAKNESSES: Like a lot of players in this new, everybody’s-a-2-guard era, Markkanen doesn’t have much of a back-to-the-basket or post up game. He’s also surprisingly unsure of himself around the paint and despite his size is more comfortable on the wing. In fact, his height is primarily only an advantage on offense because it allows him to get his shot off over smaller defenders.

With his lateral quickness, you might think he could be a shotblocking force on defense, but he only averaged 0.5 blocks per. He’s strong, but could get bullied by tougher power forwards in the NBA.

BOTTOM LINE: The comparisons to Kristaps Porzingis are legit–even if the Zinger has three inches on him. Markkanen is one of the most polished seven-foot wing players we’ve seen (not that there have been many of them), and we think his game will only get better with time. He may start out as a giant spot-up shooter, but with his athleticism and natural aptitude for playing the 2 or 3, he’s got a chance to develop into much more than that.

Sure, he might simply end up being a taller Bojan Bogdanovic, but he could also become the best player in this draft–another mountain zebra, if you will–and one that NBA fans will look back on in a few years and wonder how their team could have missed on.

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