The Utah Jazz have been one of the most pleasant surprises in the NBA to begin the season. Projected by many pundits to be destined for the bottom of the NBA standings after selling off foundational pieces Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert this past offseason, the Jazz have blown away expectations, improving to 6-2 in the early goings of the season. While the Jazz has played beautiful team basketball as a whole, at the heart of their hot start thus far has been Lauri Markkanen.
And perhaps, if Markkanen sustains this level of play, he could give the Jazz an unexpected All-Star during a year where many expected them to compete for lottery balls. At least teammate Malik Beasley thinks so. After their 121-105 win against the Memphis Grizzlies, their second win over the Western Conference playoff contenders in three nights, Beasley proclaimed that Markkanen is more than worthy to accomplish such a feat.
“He’s an All-Star. I’m preaching that this year,” Beasley said, per Eric Walden of The Salt Lake Tribune.
Acquired as the main (player) return for the three-time All-Star Mitchell, Lauri Markkanen has scorched the nets for the Jazz, emerging as a bonafide star in the process. In their latest victory over the Grizzlies, the 7'0 Finland international dropped 31 points and 11 rebounds on an insane 11/15 shooting from the field, including 5/6 from downtown, boosting his averages to 22.6 points and 9.3 boards on an efficient 50.6 percent shooting from the field.
If the Jazz continue their feel-good narrative into midseason, it'll be difficult to justify leaving Markkanen off the All-Star team, especially with Salt Lake City set to host next year's festivities. However, the league is extremely stacked at the moment, and the 25-year old forward will have stiff competition for the coveted All-Star spots.
Nevertheless, Markkanen knows that it is still way too early in the season and that he doesn't try to think too much about a potential All-Star appearance lest it becomes a distraction.
“That’s always been a goal of mine, but I’m not going to focus on it after 8 games. … But I appreciate [Malik] saying that,” Markkanen said.
It's quite remarkable how Lauri Markkanen has turned his career around. Markkanen recovered the confidence he lost during the tail-end of his Chicago Bulls stint last year with the Cleveland Cavaliers, but he has taken his game to the next level with the Jazz, carrying over the impressive form he showed during the 2022 Eurobasket. Malik Beasley may not be far off with his appraisal of just how well The Finnisher has performed thus far this season.