Finland’s Lauri Markkanen caught an inbound pass and hoisted up a three-point shot from the corner with seconds to go in a three-point game against Slovenia that missed. After swishing shot after shot for 80 minutes of play, including coming up in the clutch just three days before to beat France, that was a shock. Missing hasn’t been in his repertoire.
It was a disheartening end for a Finnish team that isn’t used to being this competitive against teams like Slovenia, which sports top talents like Goran Dragic and 18-year-old Luka Doncic. But Markkanen’s been incredible in his first three games at Eurobasket 2017, and has consequently become a can’t-miss talent on ESPN3.
Bulls fans are disappointed by the haul they received in June’s Jimmy Butler trade. That’s fair, as the Timberwolves just gave up an injured Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn and the pick that became Markkanen. But the 20-year-old has proven to be an unreal scorer so far. Maybe they should give him a chance. Through three games, he’s dropped 73 points on 27-of-48 shooting, and grabbed 23 boards. He’s made 7-of-13 from deep, and not all of those have come uncontested.
How’s Markkanen been scoring?
He’s been working an inside-out game we didn’t see all that much of at Arizona last season. Markkanen’s jumper has always been pure, but at Eurobasket, he’s shown he can put his seven-foot height and incredible length to use in the post. He’s used hook shots off the catch down low, and also blown by defenders off the dribble.
Markkanen scored 14 PTS in the last 3:35 of regulation + OT via jump hook, tip dunk, lefty finish, two spot 3s & a 2-dribble pull up going L pic.twitter.com/va4x1WWZOw— Mike Schmitz (@Mike_Schmitz) August 31, 2017
Markkanen's huge layup to give Finland the lead with under a minute pic.twitter.com/jEpTfgI4AO— Stephen Noh (@StephNoh) September 2, 2017
But can he create his own shots?
Lauri Markkanen is ballin' in the clutch pic.twitter.com/A4Iz0QGdKf— Kevin O'Connor (@KevinOConnorNBA) September 2, 2017
He’s no Kristaps Porzingis putting the ball on the ground just yet, but with some development, maybe he can become more than a one-dimensional shooter.
How good has he been in the clutch though?
Markkanen hits another massive shot to tie the game late. Poland misses again at buzzer and we're headed to 2OT. pic.twitter.com/NNsk5zcb9p— Stephen Noh (@StephNoh) September 3, 2017
What does Markkanen mean for Finland’s national team?
A hell of a lot. As a host in this year’s Eurobasket, Finnish fans have a chance to see their budding star grow before their eyes as he hits shot after shot. The win over France was huge, and they nearly raked in another against Slovenia. The future is bright.
The last time the Finnish national basketball team was in the news was in 2014 under much different circumstances. An essential bribe to no fault of their own allowed the team a wild card spot into the FIBA World Cup despite its much inferior ranks compared to other prospective choices. With Markkanen at the helm, Finland’s competitiveness is no longer in question.
So what you’re saying is that the Butler trade was actually a good deal for the Bulls?
Slow down there, it’s just Eurobasket. Markkanen’s playing against some assorted NBA talent, but this isn’t the level of competition he’ll see every night in Chicago.
Markkanen is also at an advantage with a tremendously long frame that’s hardly matched against this Eurobasket competition. Still, his presence has been impressive, and he’s leading a Finnish team to compete against solid opponents. His shooting is as good as advertised and he’s become a hero in Finland. Maybe Bulls fans got more than they thought in the Butler trade.