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Why You Might Know Him
When it comes to European draft prospects, 7-foot forward Lauri Markkanen arguably tops the list for 2017. The Finland native played one season at the University of Arizona, where he led the Wildcats in points and rebounds, all while guiding them to a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tourney. He was the No. 1 ranked European college commit on ESPN’s recruiting class of 2016, and lived up to his billing by leading all college freshmen in offensive rating with a mark of 134.1. If the name Markkanen sounds familiar, that’s because he wasn’t the first of his family to play college ball in the United States. Lauri’s father Pekka played at the University of Kansas during the 1989-90 season under Roy Williams, before pursuing an international career in Europe. If you’re a soccer fan, you may have heard of Markkanen’s brother Eero, who at one point played for Real Madrid and is currently a member of the Finnish national team.
Possessions Scouted from 2016-17 Season:
OFFENSE: 21.0 percent of possessions
DEFENSE: 21.3 percent of possessions
Lauri Markkanen is the next Kristaps Porzingis – at the very least in terms of body type. Markkanen is a lanky 7-footer who eerily resembles Porzingis, who is 7-foot-3, on the court. Both players are perimeter-oriented offensive players who are invredibly agile and athletic for their height. Markkanen has a quick and high release and is a very efficient 3-point shooter in volume. He has soft hands around the basket and is more than capable of taking his defenders off the dribble with both hands, though he prefers to go left. He is able to hit all forms of shots, from pull-ups to trail-3s to catch-and-shoots to jumpers off of pin-downs and curls. His combination of shooting ability, length, ball handling and quick first step will be difficult for defenses to defend off of pick-and-pops. He has good timing on rebounds and length will grab him a few, but he will not be a force on the glass due to his size. Similarly, he will struggle around the paint against post players. He is not strong enough to compete down there yet. He does have a good motor at the defensive end, he has good feet, and his length affects shots. He’s capable of switching onto guards.
Lauri Markkanen was born May 22, 1997 in Vantaa, Finland. His father Pekka and mother Rikka both played professional basketball and played for their respective Finnish national teams. Markkanen has two older brothers – Eero, who plays professional soccer in Sweden, as well as for the Finnish national team, and Miikka, who plays professional basketball in Finland. Markkanen began his international career in 2015 with the Finnish U-18 national team. He was the top scorer in the FIBA Europe Under-18 Championship with an average of 18.5 points per game. The following year, he was the leading scorer in the FIBA Europe Under-20 Championship with an average of 24.9 PPG. Markkanen was heavily recruited by University of North Carolina coach Roy Williams, who coached his father at the University of Kansas; however, he ultimately chose to play at the University of Arizona. He was the top-ranked European college commit on ESPN’s recruiting class of 2016. Markkanen was the Wildcats’ top performer, as he led the team in points, rebounds and 3-pointers. He averaged 15.6 points per game (10th in the Pac-12), 7.2 rebounds per game, shot 42.3 percent from 3-point range and led the conference with an 83.5 free-throw percentage. He also possessed the top offensive rating (134.1) among all college freshmen. Markkanen scored a career-high 30 points on Jan. 12 against in-state rival Arizona State, making him the first Wildcats freshman to reach the 30-point mark since former Celtic Jerryd Bayless did so during the 2007-08 season. Markkanen was the only player in the Pac-12 to rank among the top 12 in scoring, rebounding, free-throw percentage and 3-point percentage. He became just the sixth freshman in the nation during the last 25 seasons to tally at least 500 points, 250 rebounds and 50 made 3-pointers in a single season. Markkanen helped the No. 7 ranked Wildcats earn a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament. He averaged 18.0 PPG and 8.5 RPG during Arizona’s first- and second-round wins over North Dakota and Saint Mary’s, but mustered only nine points on 3-of-9 shooting during the Sweet 16 round as the Wildcats were upset by 11-seed Xavier, 73-71. Markkanen declared for the NBA Draft on March 30, 2017.