Bulls’ first-year player and former Arizona star Lauri Markkanen is second among all NBA rookies in scoring and rebounding.
The sweet-shooting 7-0 forward, the No. 7 overall pick in 2017 NBA Draft, is averaging 15.8 points and 8.2 boards this season — only the Sixers’ rook Ben Simmons putting up better numbers in both categories.
Markkanen’s strong season also included a team high 25-point explosion in 97-91 loss to the Heat on Nov. 1.
His 17 made threes in Chicago’s first six games set an NBA record.
“The kid has no fear,” Bulls head coach Fred Hoiberg told the Chicago Tribune of Markkanen. “He’s growing every game. He’s a student of it. He wants to watch film and he’s a humble kid. He has all the qualities to be a superstar in this league.”
And the 20-year-old seven-footer has also shown promise on the defensive end.
“He has displayed surprisingly strong footwork in guarding players smaller than him. And he has displayed more physicality and aggressiveness than those who stereotype European players,” wrote chicagotribune.com’s K.C. Johnson. “Throw in his ability to rebound in traffic and you’ve got a player who not only isn’t a defensive liability, but has the potential to become a force at that end once he gets stronger and better learns the NBA game and personnel.”
A college star at Arizona, Markkanen led the team in rebounds and was second in scoring last season, averaging 15.6 points and 7.2 rebounds, guiding the Wildcats to a 32-5 record and the NCAA’s Sweet 16.
Markkanen shot 42.3 percent from three and scored the second most points all-time in a season for a freshman in school history.
He also finished in the top five all-time for a Zona frosh in rebounding, made three-point field goals, made free throws, and free throw percentage.
The Finnish star was named to the All-Pac-12 First-team and was an AP Third-team All-American last year.
Markkanen was the top scorer at the 2016 FIBA U20 European Championship in Helsinki, averaging a whopping 24.9 points per game for Finland during the tournament.
The explosive Markkanen was also the leading scorer at the 2015 U18 European Championships in Greece when he averaged 18.2 points along with 6.3 rebounds, including a monster 27-point, 10-rebound double double in a win over the Ukraine.
Hardwoodhoudini.com’s Michael DePrisco raves about Markkanen’s prowess from behind the arc.
“Markkanen is an excellent shooter for his size, as he fits the mold of the modern NBA big man,” wrote DePrisco. “His stroke is effortless, and smooth. Markkanen will be able to stretch defenses at the next level.”
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