How the NBA missed on Lauri Markkanen

Lauri Markkanen's stardom in Utah seemed to come out of nowhere. How did we miss what was right in front of our eyes?
Lauri Markkanen throws it down against Golden State
Lauri Markkanen throws it down against Golden State / Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports
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Lauri Markkanen's Day Off

Today, we know what the man they call "Lauri Bird" is capable of doing on an NBA floor. During his years in Chicago, however, his organization inexplicably seemed to be indifferent to the Finn's potential. Lauri had the all accolades and production that a young, up-and-coming prospect could hope to claim, yet his time with the Bulls is retrospectively viewed as mediocre.

In his rookie season, he averaged solid numbers of 15.2 ppg on 43/36/84 shooting splits. These numbers wouldn't shatter the world but were respectable and promising for a developing player who was still only 20 years old. His season was impressive enough to earn Lauri the honor of being named to the All-Rookie 1st Team in an impressive rookie class.

  • 2017-18 All-Rookie 1st Team:
  • Kyle Kuzma (wizard 4 life)
  • Lauri Markkanen (we like him)
  • Donovan Mitchell (the real ROY)
  • Ben Simmons (he was good at the time)
  • Jayson Tatum (he's only 19!)
Lauri Markkanen, DeAndre' Bembry
Markkanen during his NBA genesis in Chicago / Jonathan Daniel/GettyImages

To no fault of Lauri's, he joined Chicago at the worst time possible--falling into a revolving door of head coaches that would have disoriented anyone still hoping to find a solid ground in the NBA. Though his counting stats improved in his increased playing time as a sophomore, he had reached his peak as a Bull, for the next season, Chicago hired the worst head coach in the history of their franchise, Jim Boylen.

Whether it was the suicide sprints in practice, the sporadic 5-man hockey rotations, pulling his starters early in the second half to concede games, or a combination of innumerable items, Jim Boylen got the worst out of his players. It simply seemed that he didn't know what to do with the reigns of an NBA basketball team, and Chicago's squad paid the price--Lauri included.

Markkanen's stats--and playing time--dropped throughout Boylen's regime. From 32 minutes a game pre-Boylen to 29, and down to 25 minutes per game in his final year in Chicago. His points per game dropped down to 13--below even his rookie average, but on a much more efficient 48/40/82 split. Though he continued to improve, he saw less and less opportunity to display his talents for the team that believed he would be a core piece for their rebuild just a few years earlier.

Becoming less valuable to the misguided Bulls, the man who Jazz fans would come to know as "All-Starkannen" was dealt to Cleveland in a 3-man trade that included Larry Nance Jr. and Derrick Jones Jr. This was a truly brilliant deal for the Cavaliers... if only they knew what they had in Markkanen.