Cavs’ Lauri Markkanen is making progress; was turning corner pre-injury

Lauri Markkanen, Cleveland Cavaliers. (Photo by Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports)
Lauri Markkanen, Cleveland Cavaliers. (Photo by Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports) /

Lauri Markkanen has had, at least to some degree, a bumpy first season with the Cleveland Cavaliers. For a considerable chunk of the season, he had been hitting less than a third of his three-point attempts, and it was an adjustment for Markkanen to be often playing with two bigs in Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen.

Throughout the year, Markkanen has had to play as much of a de facto 3 on the offensive end, and defensively, he’s had more on-ball matchups against wings than he’s had in years past seemingly with the Chicago Bulls, his team in his first four seasons.

The beginning of the campaign was a tough start for Markkanen offensively, as we noted, and aside from a few games prior to it, Markkanen was mostly off before missing a stretch of games in November because of COVID-19 health and safety protocols. He responded well coming out of those, but again, from mid-December-early January, Markkanen was way off with his shot and appeared out of rhythm in getting to his spots on-ball at times otherwise.

From Dec. 13-Jan. 4, Markkanen connected on only 18.8 percent from three, and had 11.7 points per outing; simply put, he was in a bad slump in that stretch of 10 games.

Fortunately, he again did get it going again for a few weeks, and while he will likely have some streakiness to him, anyway, as he did with Chicago, the way he came back out of that slump was promising, in my opinion. From Jan. 7-Jan. 22, Markkanen hit a scorching 47.1 percent of his three-point attempts, and had 14.4 points per contest, most notably on a 71.9 percent effective field goal shooting clip. He was the key positive in Cleveland’s disappointing loss at his former team on Jan. 19 as well, with a season-high 28 points at the Bulls.

And realistically, while there were others off in that stretch, the Cavs defense and ball movement did still weather that bumpiness, and in his case, it just seemed as if Markkanen had been finding his rhythm way more game-to-game than at other points. With him in a new situation post sign-and-trade, one had to assume it would take time before that was the case for him, and that stretch was really encouraging, in that regard.

Now, unfortunately for Markkanen, who did have injury troubles with the Bulls, objectively, he sustained a high ankle sprain in last Saturday’s win against the Oklahoma City Thunder. As of earlier this week, Markkanen had reportedly been expected to miss at minimum, two weeks from that point, and we’ll have to see. The Cavs will have the proper judement, clearly, and make sure he’s fully back, when he is, if you will.

On a positive, though, per Cavaliers head coach J.B. Bickerstaff and via Evan Dammarell of Fear The Sword and Right Down Euclid, Markkanen is on the right path, and is already out of his walking boot and “slowly progressing towards getting back on the floor.”

Markkanen seems to be making tangible progress already, which is good to know, as he was turning a corner pre-injury.

This, as we hit on, is encouraging news on the Markkanen front. When the injury initially occurred in that Thunder game last Saturday, one may have thought it was a far worse ailment, and this news from Bickerstaff was all the more promising.

Lauri at this point, even with some streakiness, has seemed to figure things out much more, and while this will take some time for him to fully back from, obviously, with how he had been turning a corner pre-injury, I’m still convinced he’ll be just fine. And hopefully post-All-Star break, Markkanen can be at or near 100 percent, just based on him gradually progressing already it seems.

After the first few games in January, Markkanen had definitely gotten it going, as we alluded to above, and I’d imagine that after a few games, he should be able to get back into a solid shooting rhythm.

Now, we’ll have to see if by when Markkanen is back, Cleveland could potentially have another perimeter shooter and/or meaningful offensive contributor in the mix.

Rumored trade targets such as Caris LeVert, Terrence Ross, Kyle Anderson, Eric Gordon have been mentioned as possible options, and the Cavaliers, among several other teams, have reportedly reached out to the Portland Trail Blazers about Robert Covington.

dark. Next. Pros and cons of Cavs potentially trading for Luke Kennard

In any case, circling back, it’s just great to know that Markkanen is already progressing, and hopefully he’s back in the fold in coming weeks, or at least seemingly post-All-Star break.