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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The Bad

For all of Lauri Markkanen’s shooting ability, there are a number of glaring holes in his game. If these could be summed up in four words, they would be – defense, rebounding and interior offense.

Markkanen’s biggest issues come on the defensive end of the floor, where he lacks the skills and physical tools to perform to the level expected of a modern NBA big.

Markkanen does not have the lateral quickness to defend the pick-and-roll, nor the defensive awareness to stick to his man after a successful pick. More than once at Arizona he found himself lost on pick-and-roll possessions, allowing the opposition to exploit him and get to the rim almost unchallenged.

Closer to the basket, he does not have the length or leaping ability needed to challenge opponents at the rim, averaging just 0.5 blocks in 30.8 minutes per game. This is exacerbated by his lack of physical strength, which sees opposing players easily go through him on their way to the rim.

These same issues — a lack of length and strength — plague him again in the post, where larger and stronger players constantly bully Markkanen. Even small-ball 4s found a way to score against Markkanen.

Markkanen’s lack of length is particularly evident here, where these much smaller players easily able to score hook shots over the 7-footer without much difficulty or resistance.

Orlando Magic
Orlando Magic /

Orlando Magic

The 20-year old’s struggles on the defensive end are only amplified by his poor rebounding. Despite averaging a reasonable 7.2 rebounds in his 30.8 minutes per game, his rebounding rate stands at an abysmal 14.0 percent.

His struggles under the basket again haunt him here, as he lacks the leaping ability to contest on the boards, and the strength to box out his opponent, often being hopelessly outmatched beneath the basket.

If not, his lack of defensive awareness can even see him wander off his defensive assignment, leaving the latter open for an offensive rebound and an easy bucket.

Yet Markkanen’s struggles are not limited to the defensive end. For all of his ability to shoot the ball, if forced to take his game inside, he has little to offer.

He is awkward when in isolation, seemingly unsure of what to do, and often unable to generate a comfortable shot. In the post, he struggles to back down his opponent, and it is not uncommon for Markkanen to airball hook shots even when close-in to the basket.

But his biggest issue on the offensive end at the moment is his predictability. He is seemingly unwi ing, and unable to drive right. Defenses are prepared for him to drive left, allowing them to close down his offensive maneuver before he can get in a position to shoot.

Markkanen only being able to drive left can often thus take him out of the game, or leave him solely as a spot-up shooter.

Despite being a half-decent player in the pick-and-roll, Pac-12 opponents soon found his weakness. As seen in Mike Schmitz’s video for DraftExpress.com (see above), opponents would simply leave the point guard on him after the pick had been set, and he would be unable to score on even these when near the basket.

His lack of an interior game would not be so bad if he demonstrated an ability to act as a big-man playmaker. But the Wildcat averaged only 0.9 assists per game. Despite a lower turnover rate, he showed a low IQ when passing the ball.

Markkanen has a long way to go before becoming an NBA-ready big-man passer in the vein of Joakim Noah, or even Orlando’s own Nikola Vucevic.