At this point in the season, the whole league knows Lauri Markkanen has had an incredible season. He’s gone from role player to first-option and done it with style. Markkanen scores 25.3 points per game with a blistering 65% true shooting percentage. That combination of volume scoring and efficiency is almost unheard of. Only eight players in NBA history have seasons matching those numbers. The complete list: Charles Barkley (3x), Stephen Curry (2x), Kevin Durant, Nikola Jokić, Amar’e Stoudemire, Kevin McHale, Adrian Dantley, and now Lauri Markkanen. That’s some lofty company for the Finnisher. All seven players he joins in this list are either already in the Hall of Fame or will likely be there before too long.
The amazing part of this stat is that it’s not an incredibly specific criterion. It’s only points per game and true shooting percentage. Markkanen is just that good at scoring. He’s the only player in the league this year in the top 15 for both points per game and TS%. Of players with at least 900 minutes this season, Markkanen’s points per shot attempt ranks second behind only Stephen Curry.
Where Markkanen differs from some of these elite scorers is his usage. Most players putting up 25 points per game require the ball in their hands, but Markkanen doesn’t. Only Barkley, McHale, and Markkanen have seasons with 25+ points per game, 65+% TS, and less than 26% Usage. Markkanen is second in the NBA in catch & shoot points per game. He leads the league in zero-dribble field goal attempts.
Klay Thompson—typically king of the zero-dribble FGA—has been surpassed in zero-dribble volume by Lauri Markkanen…— NBA University (@NBA_University) March 2, 2023
Lauri attempts 10.4 zero-dribble shots PER GAME and has a 65.0 EFG% on those shots, one of the highest in the league despite the insane volume. Zero-dribble champ! pic.twitter.com/FpWsygHn2a
This brings up a question many Jazz fans have had. Is Lauri Markkanen really a first option? That’s what he’s been this year, and he’s done incredibly well, but these numbers show a player who can contribute efficient scoring without dominating the ball. That is a rare skill that pairs perfectly with other star players. If Utah could acquire a high-usage star, Markkanen would be the perfect partner.
The Finnisher earned his nickname due to his Finnish nationality, but it’s also appropriate for how he plays. Markkanen isn’t the leading creator in most plays, but he’s an elite finisher, both in the paint and at the three-point line. Pairing him with an on-ball creator who can distribute the ball could result in an unguardable two-man game.
While Luka Dončić, Nikola Jokić, or other superstars like them would be the ideal pairing, they aren’t realistic right now. Instead, the Utah Jazz could look to find that player in the draft or continue to stockpile assets for the day when one of those coveted stars becomes available for trade. Whichever direction Utah goes, they have already found a major building block. Lauri Markkanen is the perfect number two. Now it’s time to find that number one.