Amico: Lauri Markkanen Deal A Winner For Cavs

Lauri Markkanen wasn’t a fit under first-year Bulls coach Billy Donovan and wanted out of Chicago. So the Cavaliers seized an opportunity to acquire him.Lauri Markkanen

Word is, the 6-foot-11 forward is happy to be coming to Cleveland — and play alongside the likes of center Jarrett Allen, rookie power forward Evan Mobley, small forward Isaac Okoro, and of course, the rising backcourt of Collin Sexton and Darius Garland.

Markkanen, 24, could offer the Cavs what they were hoping to get out of Kevin Love. They are hoping Markkanen can become a reliable frontcourt player who can stretch opposing defenses with a deft shooting touch.

Now, Markkanen will never be Love or even Larry Nance Jr. when it comes to rebounding or mixing it up in the paint. Nance, of course, was sent to the Trail Blazers as part of the trade with the Bulls.

But that’s OK. With Allen and Mobley (and maybe even still, Love) crashing the glass, Markkanen can do what he does best. Last season, that was average 13.8 points on a career-best 48 percent from the field.

Markkanen experienced his worst season as a pro under Donovan, but as you can see, it wasn’t a bad season overall. He averaged 18.7 points and 7.6 rebounds in 2018-19. So the potential for greater things is unquestionably there.

Interestingly, it was actually the Blazers who wanted Markkanen. They were engaged in trade talks with the Bulls first … but couldn’t reach a deal. So that’s where the Cavs came in.

“According to two sources, the talks originally centered on Markkanen landing with the Trail Blazers in exchange for Derrick Jones Jr. and the lottery-protected first-round pick,” wrote veteran NBA reporter K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago. “When the Bulls sought an extra second-round pick, the talks expanded to include the Cavaliers.”

Cleveland is glad it got involved and landed Markkanen. Yes, it meant surrendering Nance, who could be a great fit in Portland.

But when it comes to offensive firepower and proven outside shooting, Markkanen is the better player. He can run the floor, find his spots, and can bury jumpers when delivered a quick pass. He is tall enough to shoot over most of the people defending him.

And he’s young enough to be a part of things for the long term.

Cavs general manager Koby Altman could still have some moves up his sleeve. There is no doubt the Cavs will try to deal Love up until the start of the season. And if not, then by the deadline in February.

But the Cavs needed some perimeter shooting, and even at his worst, Markkanen has proven capable of at least that. In Cleveland, he could be so much more, too.

“We are extremely fortunate as an organization to be in a position to acquire another young and talented player with the skill-set of Lauri Markkanen,” Altman said in a statement. “He has the proven ability to play multiple positions and stretch the floor from the perimeter and, at 24-years-old, we believe his best basketball is in front of him.

“We are committed to establishing a winning culture in Cleveland that can be sustained over time and Lauri helps elevate that description.”

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