Another game, another Lauri Markkanen milestone performance.
In the Chicago Bulls 113-105 loss (a fantastic tank-win) against the Phoenix Suns on Sunday evening, Markkanen notched a new career high with 26 points on 10-for-19 shooting from the field. He also pulled down 13 rebounds, another career high.
The four 3-point field goals he drained puts him at 35 made 3-pointers for the season, the most in NBA history for a player’s first 14 career games.
The versatility of Markkanen’s offensive game was impressive last night. He scored from all three levels, making plays in the pick and roll as both a screener and ball handler. An early nitpick criticism of his game was that he always drove with his left hand making him somewhat predictable, but here went right on drives to the basket.
The Dirk Nowitzki-like fadeaway he flashed midway through the second quarter (~1:10 mark in the highlight video) was probably his most notable highlight of the night. Here was Markkanen talking about his fadeaway after the game to The Athletic writer Darnell Mayberry.
I’ve always had it. I’ve been working on it all the time. I just haven’t shown it yet that much. But I’ve always had it. I didn’t do it at Arizona. We just didn’t play that way. We tried to get to the rim. I mean, we’re trying to get to the rim as well. But I’ve got room for that.
If there’s been one knock to Markkanen’s offensive game this season, it’s his lack of post scoring. He doesn’t establish deep post position, and when he does post up he usually settles for a fadeaway jumper instead of backing down his defender all the way to the basket. There’s of course also the Bulls well-publicized ineptness at feeding the ball to him when he has a mismatch inside, which Fred Hoiberg made note of after the game.
I thought Lauri was phenomenal. But when he is open, we gotta get him the ball. When he's got it rolling like he did tonight, guys were switching and we had him a couple of times with the point guard buried in his back and we didn't get him the ball.
Ultimately, through 14 games, Markkanen has exceeded Bulls fans most outlandish expectations. Benefiting playing with Robin Lopez, Markkanen has “star” tools offensively and when he adds strength to his frame that should negate some of his weaknesses (post play, rebounding to an extent).
The future is bright for the Bulls new Finnish star. Markkanen’s big night vaulted him up to No. 3 among rookies in player efficiency rating (17.50).