Lauri Markkanen could have let his trade on the eve of EuroBasket 2022 be a distraction, instead he showed just how comfortable he is in his game no matter what is written on his jersey. Emmet Ryan on how the Finn’s displays are good new for Utah Jazz fans
Given I’ve already posted a piece this week about Bojan Bogdanovic and another is coming on Simone Fontecchio, this site might be BallinUtah for a few days but Lauri Markkanen’s displays for Finland showed exactly why he’s ready to bring things to another level in Salt Lake City.
His numbers at EuroBasket were straight up NBA2K stuff, with 27.9 points per game, on 54/41/91 shooting, and 8.1 rebounds per game, including a 43 and 9 performance against Croatia to bring Finland to its first quarter final since 1967.
He was traded from the Cleveland Cavaliers to the Jazz right in between punching Finland’s ticket to next year’s World Cup (the first European side to qualify) and the beginning of this tournament. At every stage, he looked wholly unphased by the enormous changes in his day to day life.
Markkanen is 25, which is young but old enough to get how the business works. He may care about the huge number of draft picks the Jazz have accumulated and how that might mean the rebuild is quick enough for him to be part of a contender within a few seasons as he enters his absolute prime, but I honestly doubt it.
Having grown up fast in the international system, where Markkanen has been the unquestioned star of the Finland side since his debut, he has grown inordinately in confidence and has the calm of a man with an extra decade of pro ball on his resume.
Even right after that heroic performance to win over Croatia, he was dripping in calm.
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One factor the Jazz probably weren’t thinking about before acquiring Markkanen was the man on the sideline for Finland. Lassi Tuovi has a lot of upside as a potential assistant hire. He’s only 35, has already coached at a high level in Europe with SIG Strasbourg, and was a mere 24 when he started coaching as an assistant with this Finnish team. Tuovi already has 12 years of experience coaching, mostly as an assistant, has clearly developed a knack for managing a mixed bag of talent in the rosters he’s got.
Throughout the tournament the trust Markkanen had in Tuovi was visibly obvious, not just the mandatory respect for the head coach of his national team. Tuovi’s relative youth also makes him relatable to players. It doesn’t hurt that Tuovi has been the most obvious coach with NBA potential, in terms of any role, at the competition amongst all the media here.
Adding him as an assistant would be a clear vote of confidence in Markkanen too, showing that the Jazz intends to build around his still developing talent.
On the whole, the Jazz organisation and fans in Utah should be thrilled with what they saw from Markkanen at EuroBasket. Finland were ride or die with him throughout but always knew when to not push things too far. They ensured he was always in position to be the best version of himself.
Given all the hectic activity going on in his professional life outside of that, the future for him in SLC is very positive indeed.