Lauri Markkanen

Stein’s Latest: Gordon, Bucks, Jazz, Washington, Crowder, More

The Bucks, who surrendered four second-round pick for Nikola Mirotic at the 2019 trade deadline, are exploring a similar approach as they pursue Rockets wing Eric Gordon, Marc Stein reports in his latest Substack article. According to Stein, Milwaukee has pitched four second-rounders to Houston in various trade scenarios involving Gordon, but the Rockets remain focused on getting a first-rounder.

One report over a month ago suggested the Bucks were offering up four second-round picks in a three-team scenario that would send Gordon to Phoenix and Jae Crowder to Milwaukee, which makes more sense from a salary-matching perspective. Acquiring Gordon, whose cap hit is $19.57MM, would be tricky for a Bucks team that doesn’t have any highly paid trade candidates.

Milwaukee’s five players earning eight-digit salaries (Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton, Jrue Holiday, Brook Lopez, and Bobby Portis) are crucial contributors, so any trade package would likely have to start with Grayson Allen, who is making $8.5MM.

Adding George Hill ($4MM) and Jordan Nwora ($3MM) to Allen would still leave the Bucks about $75K short of the outgoing salary required to take back Gordon, meaning they would have to get creative if they hope to land the veteran shooting guard.

Here’s more from Stein:

  • There’s a “rising belief” around the NBA that the Jazz will be open to listening on any players on their roster besides Lauri Markkanen and Walker Kessler at the trade deadline, says Stein. Previous reports, including one from Stein, have indicated Utah would be hesitant to move Jordan Clarkson.
  • The Hornets‘ interest in re-signing restricted free-agent-to-be P.J. Washington appears to have risen significantly since last summer, according to Stein. Miles Bridges‘ uncertain NBA future following an alleged domestic violence incident presumably factors into Charlotte’s increased interest in Washington, Stein notes.
  • Given that Jae Crowder‘s time away from the Suns is approaching the four-month mark, his potential trade suitors have questions about how long it would take him to get acclimated and to get his conditioning back to 100% if he eventually reports to a team this season, Stein writes.
  • Stein also confirms a couple previously reported rumors, writing that Spurs center Jakob Poeltl is expected to seek approximately $20MM per year in free agency this summer and noting that the Heat are among the possible trade suitors for Knicks forward Cam Reddish. Shams Charania of The Athletic cited $20MM as a number to watch for Poeltl, while Ian Begley of has mentioned Miami’s interest in Reddish.

Northwest Notes: Gobert, Clarkson, Markkanen, Murray

Rudy Gobert hasn’t made a smooth transition to his new team after the Timberwolves acquired him in an offseason trade, but his performance Friday indicates that things may be turning around, writes Kent Youngblood of The Star Tribune. Gobert posted 25 points and 21 rebounds and scored on six lob dunks, showing that he’s building a connection with his teammates.

“I try to just be in the right spot,” Gobert said. “Make it easy for them. And those guys have been getting better. A lot of guys [had] turnovers trying to throw me the ball earlier this season. And, every night, that’s going to happen here and there. But I really try to reward them by finishing those plays and being in the right spot.”

The Wolves talked a lot after Friday’s game about how long it takes to get used to a new teammate after a major personnel move. Kyle Anderson, who’s also in his first season in Minnesota, said he studied film of Joe Ingles passing the ball to Gobert when they were together in Utah.

“You just have to trust him,” Anderson said. “I mean, it’s hard. It is a lot of pressure on someone to come into a new team and be good in October and November. Like, that’s rare. So I think he’s getting his rhythm in the pocket. We’re starting to trust him more and he’s making the right play.”

There’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • Tony Jones of The Athletic has confirmed a report by Marc Stein that the Jazz and Jordan Clarkson have discussed a contract extension. In a series of tweets, Jones cites “mutual interest in moving forward” and states that negotiations are expected to continue. Sources tell Jones that the team views the 30-year-old Clarkson as young enough to be part of the rebuilding process.
  • In his first season with the Jazz, Lauri Markkanen has turned into the player the Bulls were hoping for when they traded for him on draft night in 2017, says KC Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago. Utah visited Chicago tonight, and Markkanen said he always looks forward to returning to his first NBA home. “I think I’m a better player than I was a couple years ago when I was here and I’m just getting more mature. And then being in the right system utilizes my strengths,” he said. “Being on the move is getting me to my right spots. I don’t know if I would’ve been able to do this stuff earlier on.”
  • Nuggets guard Jamal Murray is getting to the point where he’s not afraid to test his surgically repaired ACL, according to Mike Singer of The Denver Post. Murray turned in a vintage performance Thursday with 13 first-quarter points. “For the most part, I’m just playing out there,” he said.

Northwest Notes: Hyland, Jokic, Markkanen, Jazz Losing Streak

Second-year reserve Nuggets guard Bones Hyland has developed into the de facto leader of the team’s bench, writes Mike Singer of The Denver Post. Singer notes that Hyland has been showing plenty of promise of late, as when he scored 16 points to lead all bench scorers in a 124-119 Nuggets victory over the Heat Friday.

“Bones is such an important part to this team,” Nuggets head coach Michael Malone said. “He really is. When Bones is playing well, the impact he has, not only on that second unit, but the starters, is (huge).”

“Once I’m being myself out there, being Bizzy, playing with confidence, I think I give so much confidence within the team,” Hyland added. “I ignite that spark.” 

Across 27 games this season, the 22-year-old is averaging 13.1 PPG, 3.4 APG and 2.1 RPG in 20.9 MPG for the 23-12 Nuggets.

There’s more out of the Northwest Division:

  • Two-time Nuggets MVP center Nikola Jokic has emerged as a potential contender for that hardware yet again this season, but he claims personal commendations are not a major motivator. “To be honest, the MVP trophy might mean a little more to me when I finish my career,” Jokic told Serbian TV Arena Sport in a recent interview (h/t EuroBasket). “I didn’t chase that recognition or think about it. When you want something and then you get it, it’s logical to be happy. However, that award wasn’t even on my mind, so maybe I’m not overjoyed enough because of that. I have to admit that I don’t play for records, nor to be the best in triple-doubles.” Speaking of triple-doubles, the 6’11” All-Star is nearly averaging one for the season, with 25.5 PPG, 10.9 RPG, and 9.5 APG. For December, Jokic averaged 29.2 PPG on 60.4% field goal shooting, plus 12.3 RPG and 10.1 APG.
  • The 19-20 Jazz, losers of four straight contests, remain in the thick of the playoff hunt as the 10th seed in the West. There is nothing imminent on the trade front for Utah at present, writes Tony Jones of The Athletic. Jones notes that the team may now consider breakout star forward Lauri Markkanen, enjoying by far his best season ever as the club’s leading scorer, to be a long-term Jazzman. The seven-footer is averaging a career-best 23.8 PPG on .531/.429/.857. He is also pulling down 8.5 RPG and dishing out 1.9 APG.
  • The Jazz are striving to be objective as they unpack the aforementioned four consecutive defeats, which can be chalked up to a variety of factors, writes Eric Walden of The Salt Lake Tribune. Walden notes that, after a red-hot 10-3 start to the 2022/23 season, the Jazz have gone just 9-17. “We have a great group of guys, so everybody’s still working together, still having fun playing, still doing the proper work,” Markkanen said. “It’s a tough stretch — we could easily be 4-0 in the last four games, but that’s the NBA, and nobody’s gonna feel sorry for us. So we’ve got to figure out a way to get those wins down the stretch.”

Jazz Notes: Markkanen, Olynyk, Fizdale, Kessler

Lauri Markkanen is having an outstanding season for the Jazz and is a prime candidate to make his first All-Star appearance. In a Q&A session with Mark Medina of, the Finnish forward says that a strong performance at EuroBasket and being in top physical condition have contributed to his improved play, noting that he expected the team to be successful in 2022/23.

I had high expectations, especially after this summer,” Markkanen said. “I got my confidence going with the national team. There were a lot of NBA guys [in EuroBasket]. Physically, I’m in the best shape of my life. So, I had high expectations from the beginning. We have a lot of good players on this team. So, I had high expectations with the team even coming into the year, especially after training camp started.

We have a good team. We just have to stay on the same page and build off our chemistry. We have a lot of new guys. But that was the same thing last season when I was in Cleveland. Everyone was doubting you at the beginning of the year. Then we started out well. Having that experience and then going into training camp, I knew we had a good team. We just have to keep going and keep getting better with knowing each other and staying on the same page.”

Markkanen also says he was limited to highlights and recaps growing up in Finland due to games being on in the middle of the night, and didn’t actually start watching NBA games until he came stateside to play college ball at Arizona. It’s an interesting interview from Medina and worth checking out in full.

Here’s more on the Jazz:

  • Big man Kelly Olynyk, who recently missed four straight games with a left ankle sprain, was able to return to the lineup in Wednesday’s loss at Golden State, tweets Eric Walden of The Salt Lake Tribune. The 31-year-old Canadian is having a solid season for Utah, averaging 12.8 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 3.2 APG and 1.1 SPG on .520/.431/.835 shooting through 33 games (28.5 MPG).
  • Marc J. Spears of Andscape details how David Fizdale went from coaching to an assistant general manager position with the Jazz. Fizdale was an assistant coach with the Lakers last season, but Darvin Ham decided to go in a different direction. Fizdale had a job offer to be an assistant coach under Nate McMillan with the Hawks, but he ultimately declined it when he was offered the Jazz’s front office position. According to Spears, Fizdale told friend and Jazz part-owner Dwyane Wade that “being a more present husband and dad” played a big factor in his desire for a new role, with Wade later informing president Danny Ainge of Fizdale’s interest.
  • On the How ‘Bout This Jazz podcast, Walden and Andy Larsen of The Salt Lake Tribune explored the reported rumor of Utah discussing a three-team trade, rookie Walker Kessler being a pleasant surprise, potential lineup changes, and other topics.

Northwest Notes: Lillard, SGA, Gobert, Edwards, Markkanen

Point guard Damian Lillard has spent his entire career with the Trail Blazers, and despite publicly stating multiple times that he intends to spend the rest of his career in Portland, his name has been featured in trade rumors off and on for years. Lillard recently gave some advice to Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who has been the subject of similar speculation.

The grass is not always greener on the other side,” Lillard said, according to Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman.

You never know what it’s going to look like or how the next team might view you, especially when you’ve had some injuries like he’s had,” Lillard continued. “You just don’t know. Also I would tell him a lot of these people that are saying ‘free him’ and all of these things or whatever, they are not the people that are going to have to live with the consequences if it doesn’t work out. They’re not gonna ever have to walk in his shoes.”

Lillard also complimented Gilgeous-Alexander’s excellent start to the 2022/23 season, per Mussatto.

He’s coming into his own,” Lillard said. “I can remember when I was younger and I became the leader of a team. … I see that he’s in that stage. He’s trying to show what he can do — almost like a coming out party for him.

He’s having a great season. He’s playing confident, he’s playing well for the team and it’s fun to watch, just not when it happens against us.”

Here’s more from the Northwest:

  • The Timberwolves continue to have an up-and-down season. They won three straight with Rudy Gobert sidelined with an ankle injury (though they were playing three similarly inconsistent opponents in the Thunder, Mavs and Bulls), and have now dropped two straight with him back. Still, Gobert says he’s pleased with the team’s effort, per Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic. “I’m really happy about the way we come in every day working, putting in the extra work,” he said. “And then when it’s game time, I’m really happy with the physicality, the competitiveness. I think that’s what’s going to take us as far as we can go.”
  • Anthony Edwards has shown improvement as a play-maker for the Timberwolves, and La Velle E. Neal III of The Star Tribune believes the 21-year-old has higher upside in that role than Karl-Anthony Towns. Edwards still needs to find more consistency, but it would be a good thing if Edwards becomes the face of the franchise sooner rather than later, according to Neal.
  • Jazz forward Lauri Markkanen has a strong case to become a first-time All-Star, writes Sarah Todd of The Deseret News. He says been striving to achieve that goal for years. “I’ve said this publicly before, but absolutely it has always been my personal goal. Obviously I’ve got team goals and I’m always gonna push those first, but like at an individual level that’s always been my goal. Not just to be one of the guys in the league, I want to make it to the top,” Markkanen said. Through 32 games (33.8 MPG), he’s averaging a career-high 22.8 PPG, along with 8.1 RPG and 2.1 APG. He’s also posting career-best marks from the field (53.3%) and from three-point range (43.8%).

Central Notes: Caruso, LaVine, Markkanen, Allen, Pistons

While much of the trade speculation involving the up-and-down Bulls in recent weeks has revolved around stars like Zach LaVine, DeMar DeRozan, and Nikola Vucevic, one Eastern Conference general manager tells Sean Deveney of that veteran guard Alex Caruso shouldn’t be overlooked. Citing sources, Deveney says that multiple teams would be prepared to make offers for Caruso if Chicago becomes a seller and makes him available.

“If things don’t improve, Caruso is the guy most will be looking at in the short term,” the general manager said. “He has good trade value and would get something like 15 interested teams if he were up to be dealt.”

As the GM observes, Caruso’s contract ($9MM this season and two more years worth $19.4MM) is very team-friendly, and he’s the sort of player who could slot into virtually any club’s rotation.

Deveney also spoke to an Eastern Conference executive who believes that LaVine wants to be traded to the Lakers, but that sounds like speculation based primarily on the guard’s ties to UCLA and Klutch Sports and recent reports about possible dysfunction in Chicago.

Here’s more from around the Central:

  • Lauri Markkanen had intended to lay down roots in Cleveland and admits that the offseason trade sending him from the Cavaliers to the Jazz came as “kind of a shock,” writes Chris Fedor of (subscription required). However, Markkanen doesn’t hold any ill will toward his old team. “It was tough at first because we really enjoyed our time (in Cleveland),” Markkanen said. “Had a really fun year last season so it was tough at first. But then settled in and see the opportunity with Utah. Understanding the business, I know there’s always a chance. It’s not like I had any anger.”
  • In a separate subscriber-only story for, Fedor makes the case that Cavaliers center Jarrett Allen has emerged as a legitimate candidate for this season’s Defensive Player of the Year award. Allen is the anchor of a unit that now leads the NBA in defensive rating (106.8).
  • The Pistons have the NBA’s worst record at 8-26, but they haven’t been disappointed by what they’ve seen from rookies Jaden Ivey and Jalen Duren. As Keith Langlois of writes, Detroit’s long-term outlook looks better than it did a few months ago due to the promise the team’s two lottery picks have shown.

Donovan Mitchell Discusses Trade To Cavs, Gobert Relationship, More

Facing his former team for the first time since being traded from the Jazz to the Cavaliers over the offseason, Donovan Mitchell scored a team-high 23 points on 8-of-12 shooting on Monday, leading the Cavs to a 23-point victory.

Utah’s leading scorer on the night, with 24 points, was forward Lauri Markkanen, who was traded by Cleveland in the Mitchell blockbuster. Mitchell’s and Markkanen’s strong performances were the latest indication that the deal seems to be working out pretty well for both teams so far.

“It looks a like a win-win to me, and you love to see something like that,” Mitchell said, per Tony Jones of The Athletic. “It’s good to see Lauri doing his thing and the Jazz playing well. I’m happy in Cleveland, so sometimes, these kinds of things work out for the best.”

As Kelsey Russo of The Athletic writes, besides providing the Cavaliers with some much-needed scoring punch on the court, Mitchell has impressed his new teammates and coaches in Cleveland with his character off the court.

“I would love people to understand what type of human being he is,” head coach J.B. Bickerstaff said. “He’s an unbelievable person to be around every day. Ups, downs, roundabouts, eight-game winning streak, five-game losing streak, he never changed. And he was always uplifting, he was always positive, and he’s always thinking about other people first, and to me, that’s more important than all this put the ball in a basket stuff. Because those are the types of people you want to surround yourself with, and those are the types of people, and you see it, his teammates want to play with him and play for him because he’s that type of person.”

Before he and the Cavs hosted the Jazz on Monday, Mitchell spoke to Marc J. Spears of Andscape about being traded, the differences between Cleveland and Utah, the Cavs’ potential ceiling, and several other topics. The Q&A, which includes Mitchell’s explanation for why his time in Salt Lake City was sometimes “draining” off the court, is worth checking out in full, but here are a few of the highlights:

On his relationship with former Jazz co-star Rudy Gobert:

“Honestly, basketball just didn’t work. We live in such a world where it has to be really negative. Basketball just didn’t work. We didn’t see eye to eye. We wanted to both win, but we wanted to do it two different ways. It didn’t work. But as far as him and I go as people, I don’t hate him, and he doesn’t hate me. I wouldn’t say we’re the best of friends, but we’re not at the point where it’s like, I can’t stand him. … There’s no hatred. There’s no ill will towards any of that. Basketball just didn’t work out. It happens.

“… Honestly, it really started with COVID. Everything we did up to that point was under microscope to the point where we were getting evaluated on how many times we threw the ball (to each other). And that’s unfortunate, but it’s the reality of it. And it just didn’t work. I wish it did. I wish we went farther. We had the opportunity, but we didn’t. And we’re both in different spots now. But I want to wish him the best and I know he feels the same way.”

On when he realized the end was near in Utah:

“Realistically when we lost (to the Mavs in last season’s playoffs). You just felt it early. I didn’t think it would be this immediate. I didn’t think it would be everything. But I knew something was going to change this summer. I didn’t know what. And then with (head coach) Quin (Snyder) leaving I was like, ‘Oh, OK.’ And then Rudy getting traded, it’s like, ‘All right, let’s go.'”

On whether he thinks the Jazz should retire his No. 45 jersey:

“I don’t think I did enough. I hold myself to a high standard. Now, other people may feel that it should. I’d be happy and forever grateful, honored and blessed for sure for that to happen. But I don’t think I’ve done enough in five years to have my jersey up there with Karl (Malone), John (Stockton), Pistol Pete (Maravich), and Darrell Griffith. I got a long way in my career to go to continue to be better.”

Western Notes: Simons, Popovich, Markkanen, Payne

Trail Blazers guard Anfernee Simons erupted for 45 points against the Jazz on Saturday and jokingly lamented he wanted more, Aaron Fentress of The Oregonian writes. “Back of my mind, I wanted 50,” Simons said. “There’s going to be plenty of opportunities for it. But it’s alright. We got the win.” Simons, who is filling the scoring void for injured Damian Lillard, is in the first season of a four-year, $100MM contract.

We have more Western Conference news:

  • Gregg Popovich may return to the Spurs bench on Thursday when they host Houston, Tom Orsborn of the San Antonio Express-News tweets. Popovich underwent a minor medical procedure. “He is fine. That’s what people should hear the loudest,” said Brett Brown, who is filling in as San Antonio’s head coach. “It was just a minor situation, and you’ll have to deal with me for another night, another afternoon. But he is fine.”
  • Lauri Markkanen needs to realize he’s now the top offensive option with the Jazz and should be just as aggressive with the ball when he’s having an off night as he is when filling up the nets, Sarah Todd of the Deseret News opines. Markkanen’s unselfishness is admirable but he needs to think like an All-Star, Todd adds.
  • Cameron Payne was disappointed in himself for making four turnovers despite a 20-point, 12-assist night against Houston on Friday. But Payne has continued to impress with Suns starting point guard Chris Paul sidelined by a heel injury, Dana Scott of the Arizona Republic writes. “I love his balance. I love what he’s done for our team,” coach Monty Williams said. Payne’s $6.5MM salary for next season is only guaranteed for $2MM.

Northwest Notes: Markkanen, Porter, Cancar, Pokusevski, Dort

Jazz forward Lauri Markkanen hasn’t missed a game during his breakout season. That could change on Monday. Markkanen is listed as questionable to play against Chicago due to a right knee contusion.

Markkanen has been a find for the Jazz, averaging 21.7 points and 8.4 rebounds per game after being acquired in the Donovan Mitchell blockbuster with Cleveland.

We have more from the Northwest Division:

  • Nuggets forward Michael Porter Jr. is listed as doubtful to play on Monday due to a left heel contusion, the team tweets. “Right now it’s just real painful for Michael, so he’ll come back and he’ll play when he feels like he’s able to go out there and do his job effectively,” coach Michael Malone told Mike Singer of the Denver Post. Porter has already missed the last two games.
  • Vlatko Cancar is making a case for a Nuggets rotation spot with his play at both ends of the floor, Singer writes in a separate story. Cancar is averaging 11.8 points in 18.5 minutes over the past four games. “Sometimes I can score 20 points, sometimes I can score two points,” he said. “As long as I’m doing the right things on the court to help my team win, I think that’s most important.”
  • Starters Aleksej Pokusevski and Luguentz Dort felt the wrath of Thunder head coach Mark Daigneault in the team’s loss to Houston on Saturday. Pokusevski played just nine minutes and Dort saw a season-low 14 minutes of action, Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman notes. “I just thought our overall team energy wasn’t where it needed to be, especially to start the game,” Daigneault said. “When that happens, we have a lot of guys that we want to play. I use those opportunities to try to get different guys out there.”

Jazz’s Beasley Discusses Trade Rumors, Hardy, Future, More

After being traded from Minnesota to Utah over the summer, Jazz wing Malik Beasley came into the season with aspirations of becoming an All-Star, he tells Michael Scotto of HoopsHype.

While Beasley acknowledges that making the All-Star Game as a reserve probably isn’t happening, he said he was happy to come off the bench and hopes to make a run at the Sixth Man of the Year award.

“As a seven-year veteran, I can (come off the bench) for my team and understand the role,” Beasley said. “I’m at a point in my career where I want to make money, but I also want to win. I’m down for sacrificing the starting position role and doing the best I can to prove to my team that we’re all in this together.”

Beasley, who will turn 26 this Saturday, added that another one of his goals is to earn a spot in this season’s three-point contest — he has made a strong case for consideration so far, knocking down 3.2 three-pointers per game at a 41.4% rate. He tells Scotto that if the Jazz keep winning, he expects the home team to be well represented at All-Star weekend in Utah.

“If we stay in the top three, I feel like we can get two All-Stars in Lauri Markkanen and Jordan Clarkson,” Beasley said. “If we finish first or second, we can get me in the three-point contest and Kelly Olynyk in the skills challenge. When we go into the locker room or the plane, we always say us four guys are the most likely to get those nods.”

Here are a few more highlights from Beasley’s conversation with Scotto, which is worth checking out in full for the swingman’s thoughts on the Jazz exceeding their outside expectations, his goals for the rest of his career, and much more:

On being involved in trade rumors once again this season:

“I’ve been in the league for seven years, so I understand there are going to be rumors. If it happens, it happens. I think the main thing I realized is that I can only control what I can control. If something happens, prove to the next team why they chose you and why the other team shouldn’t have traded you.”

On his impressions of first-time head coach Will Hardy:

“He’s a great guy, truly. I’m not just saying that. It makes it even better that he’s young. Sometimes, when we’re in the locker room, he’ll call us ‘bro,’ or we call him ‘bro.’ It’s not just a regular head coach thing. He treats us like we’re family.

“He’s always telling us to have fun. Whenever you make mistakes on the court, for a first-time head coach, you don’t get that a lot. Usually, if a guy messes up, it’s a scream because people want to prove that everybody wants to win so badly. Coach wants to be great. He wants everyone to have fun. If you make a mistake, that’s the game of basketball. He even admits his own mistakes. It shows how great he is as a coach. I believe he should get Coach of the Year.”

On his future in Utah and the team’s $16.52MM option on him for 2023/24:

“I would love for them to pick that option up for me to continue my journey here in Utah. If not, then I’ve got to make the best of it. I’m very thankful for this landing spot since I came here. There are a lot of great people here in Utah and a great fan base. I think it’s the perfect opportunity to show I’m a changed man in Utah. It’s a place where big-name players usually wouldn’t come here, but I don’t know why. Once you come out here, you’ll have a great time.”