Utah Jazz: The case for, and against, free agent Lauri Markkanen

Lauri Markkanen vs Utah Jazz (Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports)
Lauri Markkanen vs Utah Jazz (Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports) /
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Utah Jazz
Lauri Markkanen (Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports) /

The case against the Utah Jazz signing Lauri Markkanen

Fans of the Utah Jazz who just watched Rudy Gobert struggle against the Los Angeles Clippers’ small-ball units in the Western Conference semifinals may not love the idea of adding another prodding big man who struggles to close out three-point attempts. Especially one that doesn’t even compensate by protecting the rim with elite effectiveness.

Indeed, a front court pairing of Rudy Gobert and Lauri Markkanen feels like a grouping that could dominate some situations, and wither in critical ones. That’s not a great tradeoff. Of course, conceptually, we’ve already advocated for Markkanen to both play alongside the Stifle Tower and spell him as a backup 5. Nonetheless, if Markkanen were unable to play consistently effectively alongside Gobert, it’s hard to imagine enough time would be available in the rotation for a player of his caliber.

In the modern NBA, the line between a “tweener” and a positionless player is a fine one, but Lauri Markkanen may well draw a line in the sand. At 24 with a fitting combination of length, size, strength and verticality, he still has time to develop into a league-average rim-protector and establish himself as a center. For now, he’s still listed as a power forward, but watching him defend some of the league’s more wing-like 4s could wear thin on the Utah Jazz faithful rather quickly.

Overall, signing Lauri Markkanen would mark a sudden departure for a Utah Jazz team on course to have one of the league’s most solid-yet-understated offseasons. If Markkanen commands the type of contract some expected he could entering this offseason, the Jazz should not be willing to move mountains to give it to him.

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On the other hand, if Dennis Schroder’s one-year, $5.8 million dollar “prove it” pact provides a precedent for the still-without-a-home Finnish big man, the Utah Jazz may at least have a lot to think about.