Lauri Markkanen Declares for 2017 NBA Draft After Freshman Season

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistMarch 30, 2017

TUCSON, AZ - NOVEMBER 15:  Lauri Markkanen #10 of the Arizona Wildcats during the college basketball game against the Cal State Bakersfield Roadrunners at McKale Center on November 15, 2016 in Tucson, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Arizona Wildcats freshman forward Lauri Markkanen declared for the 2017 NBA draft on Thursday, the university announced.

Evan Daniels of Scout.com first reported Markkanen is expected to sign with an agent, citing multiple sources. Markkanen later released a statement on his decision to go pro:

Markkanen made his only season in Tucson, Arizona, count. He averaged 15.6 points and 7.2 rebounds a game. He also flashed impressive range for his size (7'0"), knocking down 42.3 percent of his three-point attempts.

According to Sports-Reference.com, Markkanen was first among the team's regular rotation players in both true-shooting percentage (63.5 percent) and effective field-goal percentage (58.4 percent).

Since he's another young European 7-footer, the comparisons between Markkanen and New York Knicks star Kristaps Porzingis were inevitable. Porzingis has been an immediate hit in the Big Apple, even as the Knicks stagnate around him.

Bleacher Report's Jonathan Wasserman made one connection between the players' respective games:

Once he transitions, Markkanen's size and jumper should keep him afloat and create a high floor that reduces perceived risk. But it hasn't just been spot-up shooting that's drawn attention. Like Porzingis, Markkanen can knock down jumpers off screens and even create his own with pull-up body control and step-back footwork.

Wasserman also spoke to an NBA executive who raved 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."

The question isn't whether Markkanen is worthy of a first-round pick in the 2017 draft but rather how high he can climb inside the top 10. Especially with the NBA's emphasis on stretch 4s, he'll be highly coveted in many front offices this offseason.

While Markkanen's potential is clear for all to see, there are a few concerns about how he'll adapt at the next level.

He's a little too reliant on his outside shooting. According to Sports-Reference.com, 43.4 percent of Markkanen's field-goal attempts have come from beyond the arc.

NBA coaches will enjoy seeing Markkanen spot up from the perimeter on occasion, but they'll also expect him to score consistently in the post. He'll need to broaden his offensive attack in order to maximize his value.

What's also concerning is Markkanen averaged under a block (0.5) per game. For him to have a future at center, he can't be a defensive liability under the basket.

Markkanen could've ironed out some of his flaws with another season at Arizona, but nobody should begrudge a player making the leap to the NBA when he's almost certainly going to be an early selection in the first round.   

Related

    Report: Melo Not Planning to Opt Out of Contract

    NBA logo
    NBA

    Report: Melo Not Planning to Opt Out of Contract

    Alec Nathan
    via Bleacher Report

    MPJ's Status for Next Season Unclear

    NBA logo
    NBA

    MPJ's Status for Next Season Unclear

    Kyle Newport
    via Bleacher Report

    Bowen Rips Kawhi: 'Nothing but Excuses'

    NBA logo
    NBA

    Bowen Rips Kawhi: 'Nothing but Excuses'

    Alec Nathan
    via Bleacher Report

    Sexton Doesn't Feel Pressure to Fill Kyrie's Shoes

    NBA logo
    NBA

    Sexton Doesn't Feel Pressure to Fill Kyrie's Shoes

    Alec Nathan
    via Bleacher Report