The Utah Jazz, despite losing two games in a row over the weekend, remain one of the best feel-good stories in the NBA in the early goings of the season. Despite all the tanking talk surrounding the team, the Jazz have gone off to an impressive 10-5 start, thanks in no small part to the emergence of Lauri Markkanen into one of the league’s most efficient volume scorers.
Through 15 games, Markkanen has averaged 21.8 points and 8.6 rebounds per game on a sterling 52.6 percent shooting from the field – a huge improvement on his career numbers. In addition, the 7’0 Finland international is the second most-efficient scorer off a direct touch, trailing only two-time MVP Nikola Jokic.
Suffice to say, Lauri Markkanen is mounting a strong All-Star case as the best player on, perhaps, a playoff team. However, he needed to undergo a huge shift in mentality to get to this point, especially after he went through a few down years with the Chicago Bulls before finding his footing once more.
“I’ve always been a bit of an overthinker,” Markkanen said, per ESPN. “Like, I was missing shots. If they felt good but they weren’t going in, I’d get down. But then at some point I remember it just clicked. Like, ‘Who cares if I miss?'”
Markkanen’s confidence is at an all-time high, and it’s all thanks to the belief in himself he recovered during his short stint with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Cavs GM Koby Altman and JB Bickerstaff gave Markkanen considerable freedom on offense, and that a few mistakes here and there didn’t automatically entail a reduced role.
And now, it’s paying off big time for the Jazz, who fought hard for The Finnisher’s inclusion in the Donovan Mitchell trade.
“Confidence is everything. My third year in Chicago, it was hard for me mentally. […] I was always trying to climb out of it,” Markkanen added. “Then I didn’t care anymore. And the next game they started going in because I just stopped thinking about it.”
Lauri Markkanen is only 25 years old, so it’s not difficult to envision him resembling the player he is with the Jazz for the foreseeable future instead of this hot streak being a mere outlier. And with Markkanen now unafraid to shoot his shoot, the sky is the limit for Utah.