Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
Arizona Star Lauri Markkanen Could Be an Option for Knicks in NBA Draft
With their loss to the Nets on Sunday night at Barclays Center, the Knicks dropped to 26-41 on the season and now own the NBA’s seventh-worst record.
The latest Mock on DraftExpress.com has the Knicks taking 7-foot Arizona star Lauri Markkanen, a native of Finland, at No. 7.
Perhaps because he plays on the West Coast, Markkanen hasn’t gotten as much national attention this season as some other freshmen, including UCLA’s Lonzo Ball, Kansas’ Josh Jackson, Duke’s Jayson Tatum and the Kentucky duo of De’Aaron Fox and Malik Monk. All except Monk (No. 8) are projected ahead of Markkanen.
Washington’s Markelle Fultz, who also played in the Pac-12 but won’t be in the NCAA Tournament, has already declared for the Draft and is projected at No. 1.
Markkanen averaged 15.6 points and 7.1 rebounds for an Arizona team that won the Pac-12 Tournament championship game on Saturday night over Oregon and then received the No. 2 seed in the West Regional on Selection Sunday. Gonzaga is the 1 seed.
Markkanen, 19, dropped 29 points and 6 rebounds on UCLA in the Pac-12 semifinals and then went 4-for-4 for 11 points in the 83-80 win over Oregon in the championship game.
“Is the best player in college basketball from Finland?” said one NBA scout who covered the Pac-12 Tournament.
“UCLA’s not a bad team. He [freaking] destroyed them, he had 29 and 6. He has no strength yet. He’s a kid, he’s a 7-foot kid. What happens [when he gets older?]. There’s people saying he’s going to be better than [Dirk] Nowitzki.”
Added one NBA executive: “Markkanen is a highly skilled forward who can really pass and has shown the ability to make open shots out the the NBA three-point line. He needs to become a better rebounder and defender. His body needs to get stronger because right now he shies away contact. He is not Dirk but a very good player who has a chance to be an All-Star one day.”
The Knicks already have a player who has drawn comparisons to Nowitzki in 7-foot-3 Kristaps Porzingis, so they may not opt to go in that direction.
But whoever gets Markkanen could be getting a truly special player.
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Adam Zagoria is a New York Times contributor and Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.