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Minnesota Timberwolves NBA Draft Profile: Lauri Markkanen

Minnesota Timberwolves need a long-term solution at power forward Lauri Markkanen Can Solve This Issue

The Minnesota Timberwolves hold the seventh pick in the upcoming 2017 NBA Draft and the signals coming from the Timberwolves’ front office is that they intend to keep the pick. If still on the board then the Wolves needs to select Lauri Markkanen with the 7th pick as he has a unique upside that won’t be found with other players still available to draft. This article will break down the reasons why Wolves fans should be excited to see Markkanen in Target Center and why there is reason to pause. What is clear is that whether through the draft or free agency the Wolves need to upgrade at power forward as Gorgui Dieng is not the long-term answer. Dieng is better suited as the first big man off the bench proving defensive versatility and rebounding as he is extremely limited on the offensive end, so defenses can contribute more resources to other players and leave him wide open with the assurance that his jumper is shaky.

Who is Lauri Markkanen?

Lauri Markkanen is a 7-foot, 225-pound forward who spent his freshman season with the Arizona Wildcats. Markkanen hails from Finland and basketball blood runs in the family; his father Pekka Markkanen played college basketball at Kansas and was a journeyman in European basketball. Markkanen was a crucial component to Arizona’s run to the Sweet 16 whilst averaging 15.6 points per game and shooting 42.3% from three-point range.

Offensive Breakdown

Markkanen is an elite three-point shooter and by far the best shooting big man in the upcoming draft; this is crucial for the Wolves as they ranked 20th out of the 30 teams in three-point percentage and need players who can reliably hit shots from long distance. This adds a further layer of complexity to the Wolves’ offense as it allows more space for cutters and drives for easy baskets. Markkanen attempted the most three-pointers for a NCAA big man in 17 years and tied for the second most points by an Arizona Wildcat freshman. His elite offensive ability, rarely seen at 7 feet tall, makes him an intriguing player. Markkanen shoots with grace and has a fluid shooting form. Whether coming off a pick and roll or just spotting up he is able to score comfortably over all sizes of defenders. His ability to stretch the floor is a sought for asset and will be an excellent weapon for a coach to wield.

One area Markkanen needs to improve is that he is very reluctant to go right when attacking the basket. This is an issue projecting to the next level as opposing coaches will plan for this and defenders will force him to go right and live with shots that he takes there. One question Markkanen will have to answer is whether he is just a shooter, as aside from shooting he provides little to nothing on the offensive end. Markkanen averaged 0.9 assists and when he gets the ball he has one thing in mind which is to shoot the ball every time he gets it. Markkanen needs to get other teammates involved and force defenders to double him on the three-point line and pass to the open player.

To become an even better offensive player Markkanen needs to develop a post game so his offensive arsenal can be versatile enough to create real issues on the offensive end. Currently, Markkanen is reluctant to post up smaller forwards as he has a delicate frame and struggles to establish a base and bully smaller defenders. Once in the post he has no jump hooks or fade away jumpers which work, so this is an area Markkanen needs to develop.

Defensive breakdown

Markkanen was a poor defender for Arizona and due to his slight frame he was bullied down low by punishing big men who posted Markkanen up every time they could. Markkanen struggles to establish position and then gets pushed easily with big men finishing easily over him. Any team that drafts him needs to put him on a muscle-building gym and diet process immediately to allow him to bulk out his 7-foot frame. Markkanen is a poor rim protector as he is unsure of when to rotate to the rim and when to time his jump to give him the best chance at blocking shots. He averaged less than a block a game which is concerning for a 7-foot player but this is something that can be worked out at the next level and if Markkanen can become a passable defender then he will be ready to contribute right away

Projecting to the next level

Markkanen has the ability to be a starting forward for a long time in the league if his defense improves to a level where he can hold up against physical big men. Tom Thibodeau is notoriously known for being a defensive first coach so Markkanen’s defensive deficiencies may not align with Thibs’ philosophy, so the fit is not perfect but good enough for it to work in Minnesota. Naturally, any slender European big man who can shoot is automatically anointed as the second coming of Dirk Nowitzki but this is a lazy comparison. Markkanen will be a better version of Ryan Anderson, whether Minnesota selects Markkanen or not he is likely to have a very fruitful career in the NBA as shooting is one thing that ages very well.

Mustafa Noor

Mustafa Noor

Writer at Runner sports
London based writer covering the Minnesota Timberwolves for the runner sports. Mustafa is well aware that the Timberwolves have not made the playoffs for 13 straight years
Mustafa Noor