2017 Orlando Magic Draft Preview: Who is Lauri Markkanen?

Mar 23, 2017; San Jose, CA, USA; Arizona Wildcats forward Lauri Markkanen (10) drives the ball past Xavier Musketeers forward Tyrique Jones (0) during the second period in the semifinals of the West Regional of the 2017 NCAA Tournament at SAP Center. Xavier Musketeers defeated the Arizona Wildcats 73-71. Mandatory Credit: Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 23, 2017; San Jose, CA, USA; Arizona Wildcats forward Lauri Markkanen (10) drives the ball past Xavier Musketeers forward Tyrique Jones (0) during the second period in the semifinals of the West Regional of the 2017 NCAA Tournament at SAP Center. Xavier Musketeers defeated the Arizona Wildcats 73-71. Mandatory Credit: Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports /
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Mar 23, 2017; San Jose, CA, USA; Arizona Wildcats forward Lauri Markkanen (10) drives the ball past Xavier Musketeers forward Tyrique Jones (0) during the second period in the semifinals of the West Regional of the 2017 NCAA Tournament at SAP Center. Xavier Musketeers defeated the Arizona Wildcats 73-71. Mandatory Credit: Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 23, 2017; San Jose, CA, USA; Arizona Wildcats forward Lauri Markkanen (10) drives the ball past Xavier Musketeers forward Tyrique Jones (0) during the second period in the semifinals of the West Regional of the 2017 NCAA Tournament at SAP Center. Xavier Musketeers defeated the Arizona Wildcats 73-71. Mandatory Credit: Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports /

Arizona’s Lauri Markkanen is regarded as being the new Kristaps Porzingis. Yet concerns about his defense, rebounding, and interior offense may have teams thinking twice.

The modern NBA big man is a much different creature than that seen in previous decades. Gone are the slow, lumbering figures of the past who could barely pass the ball. And in their place is a new, more dynamic breed.

Nowadays, far more is expected big men. They must possess the lateral quickness to defend the pick-and-roll against some of the NBA’s most explosive guards, while still having the length and athleticism to protect the rim.

On the offensive end, the post game is something of a dying art. Now bigs have to be able to operate outside of the paint, setting good screens and sometimes even playing the role of playmaker.

But perhaps the biggest innovation has been the expectation big men should be able to stretch the floor, sometimes becoming consistent 3-point shooters.

The 2017 season saw the development of this latter trend in particular, with centers like Brook Lopez, Marc Gasol and DeMarcus Cousins expanding their range to beyond the 3-point line.

The modern big man has to be a far more dynamic and versatile player, able to play both on the inside and out.

Enter: Arizona Wildcats center Lauri Markkanen.

At Arizona, the Finnish big man displayed several of the qualities hitherto discussed. He is a deadly outside shooter with a quick release. And his ability to stretch the floor opens up driving lanes allowing him to get to the basket.

Looking at Markkanen’s game, it in some ways reflects the direction the modern NBA big man is heading.

But there are several holes in his game that prevent him from reaching the lofty requirements now expected of a starting-calibre big-man.

The key questions then, are what are Markkanen’s strengths and weaknesses, and is he worth a high lottery pick held by teams like the Orlando Magic?