By Justin Toscano
The Chicago Bulls made waves at the start of Thursday’s NBA Draft by sending Jimmy Butler to the Minnesota Timberwolves for Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn and the No. 7 overall pick.
Less than an hour later, Minnesota drafted Arizona forward Lauri Markkanen, a 7-footer from Finland, with the pick that will be traded to the Bulls. Markkanen became the first Finn to be drafted in the lottery and will be the third to have played in the NBA.
— Arizona Basketball (@APlayersProgram) June 23, 2017
Lauri Markkanen was named to the Pac-12’s First Team All-Conference and All-Freshman teams, and also earned Third Team All-American honors nationally. He averaged 15.6 points and 7.2 rebounds while playing just under 31 minutes per game as a Wildcat.
The Chicago Bulls shot under 30 percent from 3-point range as a team last season and were 28th in the league three-point shooting. As a freshman last year, Markkanen shot 42.3 percent from distance and 49.2 percent overall.
He has been compared to Dallas’ Dirk Nowitzki, one of basketball’s all-time scoring greats. Markkanen figures to have many of the same skills as Nowitzki, but how he develops them at the next level remains to be seen.
Markkanen was named the Oscar Robertson National Player of the Week in late January after averaging 20.5 points and 7.5 rebounds per game during a weekend sweep of USC and UCLA.
Close To Hometown Hero?
The Suns drafted Kansas guard Josh Jackson with their fourth overall pick on Thursday, but in May, Phoenix Suns general manager Ryan McDonough said Markkanen would be in play for them at No. 4.
“We love his versatility, especially offensively,” he said. “He’s one of the better big man shooters to come around in a long time. You don’t see many 7-footers with the stroke and fluidity he has offensively. He would be a really nice pick and pop threat with our guards.”