2017 NBA Draft Preview

Buying or Selling on Lauri’s Stock Markket

We take a look at Lauri Markkanen’s incredible skill set and project how he could potentially fit with Knicks

Photo: Anthony Corbo/TKW Illustration

Knicks fans, stop me if you heard this before: A seven-foot European big man who is lethal from the perimeter.

Lauri Markkanen spent his one and only college season playing for the University of Arizona under head coach Sean Miller. He averaged 15.6 points and 7.2 rebounds on an ultra-talented, high octane Arizona Wildcats team. Markkanen was arguably the most talented player and posed the biggest threat to opposing defenses.

Given the fact that the Finnish product decided to forgo his final three seasons of eligibility in college, he comes into this draft at 20 years old and will not be 21 until next May. With Markkanen’s youth comes a lot of room for improvement, along with some inevitable growing pains.


Pro Comparisons

Ceiling: Dirk Nowitzki

Yes, it is blasphemous to compare a 20-year-old kid who never played a game in the NBA to the great Dirk Nowitzki, but dammit I’m going to do it anyway.

Markkanen to me has all of the tools to be an elite scorer and winner in this league, just like Mr. Nowitzki. His seven-foot frame allows him to shoot over the top of any defender. Despite this, he needs to develop a bulkier NBA body. His deadeye shooting ability and unlimited range could potentially drive opposing coaches up a wall trying to game plan for him. Dirk possesses undoubtedly better footwork and fluidity in terms of his offensive game, but with time, Markkanen will become more smooth and less awkward with the ball. Don’t be surprised to see the big man burst on to the scene this season in a big way, whether it be here in New York or somewhere else.

Basement: Ersan Ilyasova

Let’s say Markkanen doesn’t live up to expectations. If this is the case, the guy who I think he would mirror is Ersan Ilyasova. The power forward, who has never really found a home, is a decent role player that possesses the capability to knock down perimeter shots and be productive in a limited role. Ersan is essentially the same size as Markkanen and has a similar perimeter-based game, which is why the two draw such similarities.

No disrespect, but Ilyasova is very limited in his game and is far from a star. With Markkanen, however, there’s just too much talent and upside here to think he will end up being a journeyman, but you never know.


Photo: Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Strengths

Shooting

As a freshman at Arizona, Markkanen showed off an excellent and smooth stroke to the tune of 49.2 percent from the field and an outstanding 83.5 percent from the free-throw line (per RealGM). His ability to shoot over smaller defenders made him unstoppable at times. Essentially, the 20-year-old possesses a shooting guard’s mentality in a power forward’s body, which could make him super dangerous at the next level. Despite the small sample size, Markkanen has proven he can really shoot the rock, which fits perfectly in today’s up-tempo, offensive driven pace.

Size

I’ve mentioned this about 10 times already in this article, but let’s not forget how important this is: Markkanen is 7' tall and is able to rise above defenders with ease when he shoots. His game near the rim leaves a lot to be desired, but Markkanen is able to use his long frame to create good looks for himself. Sure, the defense will be much tougher in the NBA, but being the height he is will give him a distinct advantage from the perimeter.

Work Ethic/Maturity

Sean Miller is one of the best coaches in college basketball because he demands dedication and greatness from his players. I believe Markkanen owes a lot to Coach Miller for helping him grow from a lanky freshman into one of the highest draft prospects in 2017. His growth on the court shows how he is willing to put in the extra time to improve, which is obviously a huge consideration for NBA teams looking at players.

Also, at least it seems from the outside, Markkanen has a good head on his shoulders and has no notable off the court issues. Character can matter almost as much as talent, so it’s encouraging to hear that Markkanen has done and said all of the right things so far.


Photo: Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Weaknesses

Defense

There are plenty of aspects of Markkanen’s game that scouts and coaches rave about, but unfortunately defense isn’t one of them. He has good footwork and solid agility, but he has tremendous room for improvement. Markkanen is the type of guy who can get two to three blocks per game just because he is seven-feet tall, so his numbers don’t tell the whole story. Watching Markkanen, he looks a tad soft on defense occasionally and struggles with closeouts. Don’t get me wrong, he is far from a defensive liability, but in order to really explode on the next level, Markkanen is going to have to get better on the defensive end of the floor.

Rim Protection

For someone as tall as Markkanen is, you’d expect him to be more of a intimidator inside. In order to improve this aspect of his game, Markkanen must get stronger. His length is about average for his height, which hurts him in the rim protection department. Then again, the likely position for him at the next level is the forward tweener, where he won’t be looked at to be the last line of defense.

Post Game

Markkanen has had issues developing a back-to-the-basket repertoire, as well as getting position against stronger defenders. His slender build allows him to get pushed around a little bit down low with the big boys. Most of his damage will likely be done from outside the paint, considering his post play isn’t quite there yet.

Markkanen’s Fit with the Knicks

To be completely honest, Markkanen wouldn’t be the best fit for the Knicks organization. The Knicks already have a stretch-four who can shoot from deep, so their focus (or at least it should be) needs to be on getting a point guard to run the infamous Triangle.

I guess Porzingis and Markkanen on the same court would be really fun to watch between the shooting and explosiveness. However, the floor spacing would be out of whack, and having two guys with extremely similar skill sets could cause some issues in terms of game planning.

Regardless, I do not see the Knicks selecting Markkanen at eight, simply because he does not fill a need for them. If Markkanen is far and away the best available, then take the talented guy and figure out a way to make it work, Phil.

Nick Scolaro, staff writer

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