Lauri Markkanen enrolled at Arizona as a highly touted pro prospect, after impressive appearances in FIBA junior events for four straight years, and I think it’s fair to say the seven-foot gunner from Finland met expectations.
His rebounding didn’t translate against American competition but his shooting turned out to be even better than expected and he posted one of the most remarkable shooting seasons in NCAA history.
Despite taking 74.7% of his shots away from the basket, Markkanen averaged 1.53 points per shot and Arizona averaged 134.1 points per 100 possessions with him on the floor, 15th best in the country, which made him indispensible to what turned out to be a legit title contender.
Arizona won 32 out of 37 games, won a share of the PAC 12 outright, won the PAC 12 tournament and lost to Xavier by a possession in the Sweet Sixteen. Markkanen led the team in minutes and was the driving force behind the 16th-ranked offense in adjusted offensive efficiency, despite his unimpressive 22.8% usage rate, because he is one of those players who can make an impact without touching the ball.
Given his stature, it’s enticing to think of Markkanen as an eventual full time center, providing the sort of spacing that should stretch any defense to its breaking point, but he is a poor defender at this point of his development and seems far from becoming the sort of big man who can be trusted with directing traffic, calling coverages and acting as the last line of defense.
Arizona managed to build a top 30 defense in spite of him, though. It successfully hid him by pairing him up with a prototype center for just about every minute he was on the floor. It was rare to see opponents putting him in pick-and-roll defense constantly to try exposing him in space, which will be a lot more challenging in the pros.
(Check the rest of the post at RealGM)