Over the first 20 games of this season Lauri Markkanen, the Finnisher, scored 13.3 points per game on 34.9% shooting. This is what scientists refer to as “very not good.” The Finnisher was drafted as a top 75 player (66.3 ADP) to be one of the new unicorns in the NBA: A big man with range. Markannen’s first two seasons were considered his floor: 18+ PPG in his sophomore season on 43% shooting, and 36% from three on 6+ 3PA per game. Markkanen shot 28% from three in October and November, his first 20 games. That is not what people drafted him to do, including the actual, real life Chicago Bulls. Markkanen finnished (thank you) in the top 125 in ESPN basic fantasy last year, and almost everyone, everywhere, expected him to be a top 75 player this year.
So why the terrible start? Was Markkanen hurt? Were the Bulls so awful that Markkanen’s play was affected dramatically? Was Genius Jim Boylen somehow not maximizing one of his best offensive threats? He was basically shooting like Cam Reddish, a rookie, for the first 20 games.
We may never know what plagued Markkanen sice whatever was wrong seems to be fixed now.
Since December 1st, Markkanen has been one of the best shooters in the league, averaging 17+ PPG on 48.8% shooting, with 7+ 3PA per game and a 40+ 3PT%. He’s been a top 40ish player over the past month. He’s brought his season averages up to 15+ PPG, along with 6+ rebounds, 1+ assists, and 6+ 3PA per game. Only 33 players in the NBA average 15 and 6; only 13 players average 6+ RPG and 6+ 3PA. The list of players who average 15/6/1 with 6+ 3PA is a list of some of the absolute best fantasy players in the game: James Harden, Luka Doncic, Karl-Anthony Towns, LeBron James, Brandon Ingram, Pascal Siakam, Paul George, Jayson Tatum, Kristaps Porzingis, and Kevin Love. This is the company we all hoped the Finnisher would be capable of keeping. He may not be a 20+ PPG scoring threat, but his combination of outside shooting and height makes him a formidable fantasy asset.
Only the Big KAT and Ingram are shooting 40+% from three this year from that list above, but Markkanen’s been shooting as well as them for 20 games now, ever since the calendar turned to December. If he’s truly over his shooting woes from the first 20 games of the season, then he may be due for a huge second half. Only 8 players this year have averaged 17+ PPG on 40+FG% and 40+ 3PT%: Big KAT, Ingram, Bojan Bogdanovic, Khris Middleton, LaMarcus Aldridge (who I guess is a long range assassin now apparently), Marcus Morris Sr., Evan Fournier, and Jaren Jackson, Jr. (3J’s having a great season.)
Lauri Markkanen is still just 22 years old. He’s possibly one of the most valuable fantasy players in the game because of his youth and because of his (assumed) potential. Is the Finnisher a 20+ PPG monster waiting to happen? The question almost doesn’t matter in fantasy, because Markkanen doesn’t need to score 20 points per game in order to be a valuable fantasy asset. His combination of unicorn-esque stats, and potential for better efficiency, is almost irresistible. I hope that his early season woes are behind him, and that he is ready to put his slow start behind him, because Markkanen is the type of player that fantasy championships are made of.