Lauri Markkanen is Going to be a Star

Lauri Markkanen has the potential to be a star for this rebuilding Bulls franchise.

To be honest, I initially hated the Markkanenn pick. I had no idea who he was. He just looked like a goofy, unathletic guy. Any draft previews I read or listened to did not seem to know much about him either. Or, those previewing the draft simply had better things to say about the other prospects in the draft and little or nothing to say about Markkanen.

At first, I really thought the Bulls were stupid for not taking Dennis Smith Jr, Donovan Mitchell, or Malik Monk, simply because I thought those three guys were the best players available at the seventh pick, even once news broke that the Bulls would be receiving Kris Dunn in the Jimmy Butler trade. I don’t think I was the only Bulls fan feeling this way. Markkanen was more of an unknown. Nevertheless, I am extremely glad to have been so incredibly wrong.

Markkanen has seemingly surprised almost everyone by his play this season. In fact, he has been one of the best rookies altogether, along with fellow first-years Ben Simmons, Donovan Mitchell, and Jayson Tatum. In a conversation of best rookies this season, Markkanen has to be mentioned.

With averages of 15.3 points per game and 7.7 rebounds per game, Markkanen has been a bright spot for the Bulls during the first year of this rebuild, to say the least.

Other than the scoring and rebounding numbers, Markkanen also possesses great shooting ability. Although he is only shooting around 35% from three at the moment, watch any Bulls game and at some point, it will be brought up that Markkanen is the quickest player to reach 100 made three-pointers.

It is well understood that Markkanen, LaVine, and Dunn are the main guys the Bulls plan on rebuilding around and while LaVine is widely considered the centerpiece, I believe the possibility exists that Markkanen actually has the greater potential as a player. People don’t hand out the nickname “Baby Dirk” to just anyone.

It is impossible to know what Markkanen’s ceiling actually is at this moment, but his shooting ability and size will make him a very good player at the very least. Best case scenario, Markkanen is a Dirk Nowitzki-level player. Comparing Markkanen to Dirk this early may seem lazy and crass because they are both 7-foot tall white guys that can shoot, but I think there are actually more similarities between the two at age 20.

Both guys are great in the catch in shoot game but can ultimately score from any range. There are definitely some similarities in the way they play. However, Markkanen is actually stronger and more athletic than Dirk was at the age of 20 or at any point in Dirk’s career for that matter. Of course, Dirk was Dirk, though. Markkanen may have a physical advantage, but Dirk had intangibles that are difficult to replicate.

I don’t make this comparison to Dirk Nowitzki lightly. Normally I think it’s silly to claim a rookie has the same ceiling as an all-time great. But sometimes, a special player comes around, with certain physical attributes and a level of skill that can warrant a comparison that might otherwise be considered reaching.

Markkanen is only 20 years old. He is going to get better. But when a player is already as good as he is, as young as he is, it makes fans like me hope for the best when it comes to player growth and potential.

And even though Bulls fan should always be angry that they also traded away the 16th pick in 2017, one has to admit that Lauri Markkanen, Kris Dunn, and Zach LaVine provide a bright and exciting future for the Chicago Bulls.

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