The Utah Jazz are watching Lauri Markkanen hit the court running.
The FIBA World Cup is seemingly paying off for Lauri Markkanen. The Finnish superstar has been one of the few players to hit the court running this preseason, looking anywhere from good to great in his first three games of the preseason. He’s not shot lower than 40% from the floor in any game and just finished the Portland Trail Blazers contest shooting 75% for the game, making 9 of 12 shots.
In fact, his points total for this game, 26 points, is tied for the second-most in the preseason for 2023. Markkanen through three games has shot 56% from the floor, 30% from three, and he’s yet to miss from the free-throw line, hitting 100%.
You’d like to see a higher three-point mark, but he’s only taken 10 shots in three games, so he’s clearly not relying on it that much, which is fine.
And there may be something to this. Markkanen looked very good during the FIBA World Cup and while things change from international competition when going to the NBA, not everything does. He’s been the one player on the Utah Jazz who has been consistently playing up to his standards. Sure, not every game is as good as some others, but unlike some guys who can’t seem to his the backboard, Markkanen is looking like he’s well into mid-season form.
And that may be due to playing in the FIBA World Cup. He played against some of the world’s best players, and he did so while constantly carrying the Finnish squad by himself. That type of situation forces you to raise your game and play at your very best. Since that tournament didn’t end that long ago, it’s fair to say that a lot of what we’re seeing right now is Markkanen well into his seasonal form, long ahead of many of his other teammates.
Now, clearly, not everyone is playing to the best of their abilities, even those that played in the World Cup, but that’s not a knock on the tournament itself, but more a testament to how good Markkanen may actually be. He may be on the verge of having an even bigger season in 2023-2024 than he has had previously.