Lauri Markkane’s position is as positionless as it comes when it comes to the Utah Jazz’s lineup
Is Lauri Markkanen a small forward or a power forward? With the NBA being “positionless”, does it even matter? It turns out that yes, it does in fact matter. Despite what so many want from NBA prospects these days, it turns out positions are still important. Sure, now it’s based more on skill than size, as it used to be, but positions still matter in the NBA, which is why Markkanen’s classification is so interesting.
Size-wise, he’s a power forward. He’s 7’0, 240 lbs, but he shoots like a guard. His ability to hit a shot from anywhere on the court and do so at a high efficiency isn’t exactly a big-man skillset. Look at recently added teammate, John Collins. Collins is about the same size (6’9, 235 lbs), but he’s not nearly as skilled of a shooter as Markkanen.
So if you have a need or desire to put both in the same starting lineup you can, just have Collins at power forward and Markkanen at small. That way Markkanen can work from the elbow to the three-point line while hurting teams from mid-range if need be.
So while Markkanen can play the four (PF) or the three (SF), what should Markkanen be? Well, Cleveland showed off how effective he is as a small forward, and it allowed the Jazz to follow suit. Before the trade deadline, the usual lineup was some combination of Mike Conley, Jordan Clarkson, Markkanen, Jarred Vanderbilt, and Kelly Olynyk. After the deadline, it was usually Talen Horton-Tucker, Ochai Agbaji, Markkanen, Olynyk, and Walker Kessler.
Injuries to Clarkson forced some position changes, but it’d be far to say that Markkanen played more small forward for the Jazz than not. After all, Olynyk, Vanderbilt, and Kessler were all far less skilled offensively than Markkanen, so the Jazz moved Markkanen out to the perimeter far more often in those situations.
When Clarkson was healthy, they seemingly played Markkanen closer to the rim, so it really all comes down to the talent around Markkanen and what the team needs him to do.
That said, in 2023-2024, it’s very likely he’s the three on the court, as he’ll have someone at point-guard, Clarkson will likely remain the team’s starter at shooting guard (the two), Collins will take the spot at power forward and Kessler will be the locked-in starter for center. That leaves Markkanen to play the three for the squad.
This means that he’s technically a small forward, though, with his versatility, you’ll likely see him taking on different obligations and showing off different skills throughout the season that a typical small forward/power forward wouldn’t be able to do.