The most painful part of the Donovan Mitchell trade for Cavaliers fans has been watching Lauri Markkanen blossom in Utah into a bona fide All-Star forward. He came to the Cavs in 2021 after the rest of the league ignored him in restricted free agency and was given a chance to start; his success that year made him the centerpiece of the trade for Mitchell.
Markkanen took the next step last year, becoming an All-Star and winning Most Improved Player. It was no flash-in-the-pan, either, as Markkanen is lighting up the scoreboard to start 2023-24. He is averaging 24.2 points and 8.6 rebounds per game, shooting a blistering 44.6 percenter from 3-point range and 88.6 percent from the free-throw stripe.
With Walker Kessler out due to injury the Jazz have asked Markkanen to play more minutes at the big spots instead of as a jumbo small forward and the results have been strong; the Jazz allow 9.9 fewer points per 100 possessions when he is on the court than when he is off, and overall they are 12.3 points per 100 better when he is on the court.
Markkanen has become a star, a bittersweet development for his fans back in Cleveland who have to wonder what if he had stayed with the team. While his shooting may cool off a bit, there is no reason Markkanen cannot continue to be an All-Star player this year and beyond.