Cleveland Cavaliers: Lauri Markkanen, reborn in Cleveland?

Lauri Markkanen, Cleveland Cavaliers. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
Lauri Markkanen, Cleveland Cavaliers. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images) /
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Lauri Markkanen, Cleveland Cavaliers. (Photo by David Richard-USA TODAY Sports) /

The Cleveland Cavaliers have many questions that need answered and with the 2021-22 NBA season right around the corner, some of them may take, at the very least, a quarter’s worth of the season to truly answer. Other’s may only require a few games to determine. But at least in the case of one, an answer may be close to being provided.

When the team traded away Akron, Ohio native and franchise-favorite Larry Nance Jr., the fanbase seemed quite divided upon whether or not it was the right move. And, while that move brought in former Chicago Bull Lauri Markkanen, skepticism still ran rampant in regards to just how Markkanen would fit on a team that desperately needed a wing who could defend and space the floor and not necessarily another big.

Further complicating things was the fact that this was a sign-and-trade for the big man. He received a four-year, $67 million deal that could firmly implant him into the Cavs future. I must admit that even I, myself, felt indifferent about the entire transaction. After all, it’s not as if Markkanen was viewed in a favorable light at the time, and one couldn’t be blamed for harboring the mindset that this would further convolute what the rotation would look like.

So what exactly went wrong during his time with the Chicago Bulls?

Chicago moved on from the Finland-native after four up-and-down seasons that at best, could be described as inconsistent. Hopes were high after a solid rookie season in which he averaged 15.2 points and 7.5 rebounds while canning 36.2 percent of his attempts from range across 68 appearances. He then upped his counting stats nearly across the board during his sophomore year with career-highs in scoring (18.7) and rebounding (9.0), to name a few categories but played in only 52 contests.

Markannen began to resemble everything a team could want in a modern-day stretch 4. He just couldn’t remain healthy throughout the seasons that followed, playing in 101 of a possible 147 games during that span of time. His young career reached a low point during the 2020-21 campaign as he lost his role as a starter midway through that season while producing his lowest seasonal averages to date.

Was his regression a sign of even more struggles to come down the road or just due to not having a clearly defined role, injuries, and poor fit? It’s truly impossible to know the exact reason now that he is donning the wine and gold.