Arizona Basketball

Arizona Wildcats Productivity Report: NBA executives have varying opinions of Markkanen


Bleacher Report’s NBA lead writer Jonathan Wasserman tackled this week the subject of Arizona 7-foot freshman forward Lauri Markkanen having a similar game as New York Knicks star Kristaps Porzingis.

Wasserman quotes an NBA executive saying about Markkanen: “This kid is a stud. I’ve watched him over seven times. His skill level and soft touch from outside are things one can’t teach. Get guys to have him lower so we can steal him.”

Markkanen has endured a recent four-game slump in which his productivity rating (used by this site) has dipped to .820 after he was at .969 heading into the Gonzaga game.

Lauri Markkanen’s perimeter game as a 7-footer has some NBA scouts salivating (Robert Scot/Virl Video)

His productivity rating against Gonzaga, Cal-Irvine, Missouri and Grand Canyon was a respectable .559, but he is an elite player who should always be above or near .800 — the level of a Pac-12 Player of Year kind of talent.

Markkanen’s rating in the last two games against Missouri and Grand Canyon was only at .375, above only one other struggling player — Chance Comanche — in Sean Miller’s seven-man rotation. Comanche had a combined rating of .257 in those two games.

“In fairness to Lauri, he plays the three (small forward position) for us,” Miller said after the Grand Canyon game. “There aren’t 7-footers — unless you’re my guy from the New York Knicks, Porzingis, is that his name? — I mean, there’s nobody who does that.

“You can’t be 7-foot and use ball screens and dribble. But that’s the position (Markkanen) plays for us because we have three guards (Kadeem Allen, Kobi Simmons and Rawle Alkins). So in fairness to him, in developing it’s a great thing (for the NBA), but he’s not in a positiion to be at his best because of our situation.”

The predicament Miller is in with Markkanen extending to the wing is the unavailability of Ray Smith (retired after three serious knee injuries in as many years) and the unknown eligibility status of Allonzo Trier. Miller uses Markkanen on the wing to lessen the load on Alkins and give Arizona more scoring opportunities.

What intrigues NBA executives the most about Markkanen is his 3-point shooting ability. He is shooting an impressive 44.9 percent (22 of 49) from 3-point range. For a player who is 7’0″ and 230 pounds, that has NBA scouts salivating.

Porzingis is 7’3″ and 240 pounds. He is shooting 39.3 percent (55 of 140) from the NBA’s 3-point line.

“Making shots in our league is an art,” the NBA executive told Wasserman about Markkanen. “It’s a skill no coach, you or me can teach. One-hundred percent, kid is special.”

Wasserman writes that, “like Porzingis, Markkanen can knock down jumpers off screens and even create his own with pull-up body control and step-back footwork.”

Markkanen’s versatility led one West Coast scout to tell Wasserman that Markkanen can also play the center position in the NBA.

“I think Markkanen’s best future would be as a 5 because the 5 man in the NBA can still stretch a guy out and not have to bounce it,” the scout said. “He has a legit 7-foot frame. He does have some length; he’s not a short-armed guy. I like his ability to put on weight and actually be a stretch 5. I think that’s where a lot of people like him.

“If he can be that rim protector, a little better rebounder, he’ll make a lot of money. Because on the offensive side, he’s a real tough matchup as a 5 man. His draft status will move up remarkably if teams think they can play him at center.”

The defensive end is where scouts are more concerned with Markkanen tallying only seven blocked shots in 315 minutes despite his frame.

Miller made note after the Grand Canyon game that Markkanen was somewhat out of his element because of Grand Canyon’s physical style of play and athleticism.

“It was a physical game tonight,” Miller said when asked about Markkanen’s recent slump. “It was a hard-playing game where drives were heavily contested and there was a lot of quickness on the floor.”

One NBA general manager went so far as to call Markkanen a “Channing Frye-type of player”, meaning he won’t be counted on to rebound because of the physical nature of the NBA but will be used as a scoring threat off the bench.

“We see him as more of a role player, sixth man, scoring threat off the bench, with an ability to become a Channing Frye-type of player,” the GM told Wasserman. “I know (that) isn’t how the Arizona coaching staff sees Lauri. But once he fills out we see him as more of an offensive-oriented perimeter-type player.”

PP: Productivity Points (Points, assists, rebounds, steals, blocked shots, FGs made, FTs made added together and then subtracted by missed FGs, missed FTs, personal fouls and turnovers)
MIN: Minutes played overall
PR: Productivity rating per minute played (Productivity points divided by minutes played)

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FOLLOW @JAVIERJMORALES ON TWITTER! publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports,, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon.


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