Lauri Markkanen

Lauri Markkanen Discusses Trade To Jazz, EuroBasket Success

New Jazz forward Lauri Markkanen spoke with Eric Walden of the Salt Lake Tribune (subscriber exclusive) in a wide-ranging conversation.

The 25-year-old has had a busy summer. In addition to being one of the centerpieces in the deal that saw the Jazz shipping All-Star shooting guard Donovan Mitchell to the Cavaliers, Markkanen also starred for his native Finland in Berlin for this year’s EuroBasket, racking up the second-highest scoring average in the tournament. The team ultimately fell in the quarterfinals.

This is the second consecutive offseason relocation Markkanen has undergone during his burgeoning pro career. In the summer of 2021, he joined Cleveland in a sign-and-trade deal, inking a four-year, $67.5MM contract. During his lone season with the 44-38 Cavaliers, the seven-footer, traditionally a power forward, started as the team’s small forward for the first time in his NBA career. In 61 games, all starts, he averaged 14.8 PPG on .445/.358/.868 shooting splits, 5.7 RPG, and 1.3 APG.

Walden’s interview is worth reading in full, but here are some select highlights from the conversation:

On Markkanen’s reaction to the trade:

“It was kind of a shock. I didn’t hear anything before, I didn’t see my name in any rumors… It was emotional. I understand the business side of it, so I’ve got no hard feelings. I thanked them for the opportunity that I had. But the first moments were really emotional for me, because we really liked Cleveland, and thought we’d found a home there.”

On playing for his homeland in this summer’s EuroBasket competition:

“[Finland’s standing among its EuroBasket rivals is] still a work in progress. But [rewind] to, like, [11] years ago when they made EuroBasket for the first time in a while at that point — it’s been on the rise since… They were part of the World Cup in [2015]. It’s been going up for a while. I’m happy to be a part of it, and I understand the history. … I’m trying to take this thing even further.”

On how close he came to attending the University of Utah as a college prospect in 2016:

“Utah was my first visit. I was on the visit with my dad, and I remember joking to him, ‘Do I have to go to the other two places? Because I feel comfortable there.’ I was pretty confident that I’m gonna go to Utah… But then we cleared our minds and took the other two visits. And my gut feeling [was strong] when I got to Arizona.”

And-Ones: Wembanyama, High School Prospects, EuroBasket, More

Victor Wembanyama is projected to be the top pick in the 2023 draft, but he’s more concerned about landing with the right team than being taken No. 1 overall, writes Antonis Stroggylakis of Eurohoops. Wembanyama, who plays for Metropolitans 92 in France, discussed his prospects during Media Day for his team’s new season, which starts this weekend.

“Sports-wise, the most interesting thing is always to find an organization that will take care of the project and the player,” Wembanyama said, as reported by the French outlet BasketSession. “So it’s better to be second, third, or 20th in the Draft if you have a better career afterward. But I don’t know if it’s pride, I have a part in me that says that there must be no one (drafted) in front of me.”

The 18-year-old center stands 7’4″, but he only weighs a little over 200 pounds, so durability is one of the few questions surrounding him as he prepares for his NBA career. Scouts are nearly unanimous in raving about his talent, and he has been a star in international competitions for the past three years.

“What matters to me this season is above all to consolidate a place as a possible No. 1 pick in the draft,” Wembanyama added. “That’s my goal, rather than trying to put on 15 kilos and take risks. I want to strengthen myself, but above all to move towards a favorable situation for the NBA.”

  • With the possibility looming that high school players will be allowed to go straight to the NBA in a new Collective Bargaining Agreement, Jacob Polacheck of ZagsBlog talks to some of the top prospects in the Class of 2024 about how that might affect their decisions. “I think it’s an amazing opportunity for players who have the ability to go out of high school and follow their dream of playing in the NBA,” said Ian Jackson of Cardinal Hayes in New York, who is considered one of the top prospects in the class. “I think it’s great and the best part is that it gives high school athletes more choices.” It’s possible that the one-and-done rule could remain in place beyond 2024 even if the NBA and NBPA aim to eventually get rid of it, as Adrian Wojnarowski reported on Monday.
  • Willy Hernangomez and Juancho Hernangomez stood out while leading Spain to the EuroBasket championship, Michael Scotto said in a HoopsHype podcast. Scotto also believes Finland’s Lauri Markkanen showed that he’s ready for a breakout season with the Jazz and that Italy’s Simone Fontecchio could be productive in Utah as well.
  • Raptors representative Larry Tanenbaum was unanimously re-elected as chairman of the NBA Board of Governors, the league announced this morning (Twitter link).

Northwest Notes: Markkanen, Mitchell, Ainge, Snyder, Adelman

Lauri Markkanen reached the 30-point mark in three of Finland’s seven games at EuroBasket, leading the country’s national team to the quarterfinals. Jazz CEO Danny Ainge, who traded for Markkanen, was paying close attention, according to Ryan McDonald of the Deseret News. “He’s really coming into his own,” Ainge said. “We’re seeing things in him, grabbing rebounds and going coast-to-coast with the dribble. Those are things you haven’t really seen out of Lauri yet, and so we’re excited about his future.”

We have more from the Northwest Division:

  • Donovan Mitchell took exception to Ainge’s recent observation that the Jazz‘s former core group “really didn’t believe in each other,” pushing back on that claim during an interview with ESPN’s Brian Windhorst. “I don’t think we didn’t believe [in each other],” Mitchell said. “I said at the end of the season, ‘Don’t trade [Rudy Gobert]. Let’s figure this out, let’s do.’ And that didn’t happen. For him to say that after six months around the team, I disagree. But you know, at the end of the day, that’s his decision.”
  • Mitchell offered high praise for former Jazz head coach Quin Snyder and expects him to get another head coaching job, he said on a podcast with ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (hat tip to McDonald). “Losing a guy like Quin as the leader, as our coach, that was big for me, just not knowing what to expect next and how to go about it into training camp and whatnot,” Mitchell said. “That was tough, but I always loved Quin. I appreciated Quin. Quin’s going to get another job wherever. He’s going to do an amazing job, but ultimately he needed a break.”
  • Nuggets assistant coach David Adelman has agreed to a two-year extension, Michael Scotto of HoopsHype tweetsAdelman is Michael Malone’s lead assistant and served as acting head coach when Malone had COVID last season. He has spent the past five seasons in Denver.

And-Ones: Italy, Power Rankings, Markkanen, Tjarks

Italy defeated Serbia 94-86 in an upset win on Sunday, eliminating two-time Most Valuable Player Nikola Jokic and his team from the EuroBasket, as relayed by EuroHoops. The Italian team, which will play its quarterfinal contest vs. France on Wednesday, was led by Nicolo Melli and Achille Polonara, both of whom had 21 points.

Jokic finished with 32 points, 13 rebounds, four assists and two steals. Serbia was a +11 points when he was on the court, but the team was outscored by 19 points in the 11 minutes he sat, according to Adam Mares of DNVR Sports (Twitter link).

Here are some other odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • Marc Stein releases the first edition of his power rankings (Substack link) for the 2022/23 season. The Warriors and Bucks, the two most recent NBA champions, sit at No. 1 and No. 2, respectively. The Celtics, Nuggets, and Clippers round out Stein’s top five.
  • New Jazz big man Lauri Markkanen scored a Finnish national team record 43 points in the squad’s win over Croatia, as covered by Sportando. Markkanen also recorded nine rebounds, shooting 19-of-28 from the floor. Utah acquired him as part of a deal that sent away Donovan Mitchell this month.
  • Basketball analyst Jonathan Tjarks of The Ringer has tragically passed away after a courageous battle with cancer. A GoFundMe has been set up for the Tjarks family that can be found here. We at Hoops Rumors extend our sincerest condolences to Tjarks’ friends and family.

Jazz Notes: Mitchell Trade, Knicks Talks, Conley, Bass

Within their Thursday press release officially confirming the trade that sent Donovan Mitchell to Cleveland, the Jazz‘s top decision-makers explained why they felt it was necessary to move the club’s leading scorer, a three-time All-Star who just turned 26.

“It was clear that in order to optimize our opportunity to create a team that could truly contend and establish sustained success, we needed to transition our roster,” Jazz CEO Danny Ainge said in a statement. “In trading Rudy (Gobert) and now Donovan, it was a rare opportunity to maximize our ability to get quality talent and picks to best position us moving forward. We have a plan in place to help us assemble the championship team our fans deserve. It will take time to craft our roster. We all understand the work ahead and are committed to our vision.”

General manager Justin Zanik, meanwhile, referred to Collin Sexton, Lauri Markkanen, and Ochai Agbaji as three “exciting young players,” suggesting the front office views the trio as part of the Jazz’s long-term plan.

“We believe that they fit the Jazz culture and hard-nosed, competitive brand of basketball we’ve built here in Utah,” Zanik said. “They give us versatility and athleticism on both ends of the floor as we grow toward the future. We look forward to our fans getting to know them.”

Here’s more out of Utah:

  • Previous reports suggested there was some level of “animus” between the Jazz and Knicks, due in part to Knicks executives sitting courtside at Utah’s first playoff game vs. Dallas in the spring, as well as to New York’s decision to extend RJ Barrett while the two teams were negotiating his possible inclusion in a Mitchell trade. However, ESPN’s Zach Lowe said on his Lowe Post podcast that any hard feelings between the Jazz and the Knicks weren’t the reason why Utah made a deal with Cleveland instead of New York.
  • “Emotions can play into this,” Lowe said, per RealGM. “I’ve been assured by the Utah side that ‘No, look, we’re mature people. Yes, we were upset with particularly the Mavs’ game incident, but we’re not going to make decisions based on those kind of things that now happened four months ago or whatever. We’ve made the best deal possible.'”
  • In a column for The Salt Lake Tribune, Robert Gehrke focuses on the off-court impact of the Mitchell trade, arguing that Utah has lost a “conscience of our community.”
  • Nekias Duncan of BasketballNews.com considers what Mike Conley can still bring to a contending team and explores which clubs might be realistic trade suitors for the veteran point guard. Meanwhile, Eric Walden of The Salt Lake Tribune weighs where Conley, Bojan Bogdanovic, and Jordan Clarkson could land if they’re traded.
  • The Salt Lake City Stars – Utah’s G League affiliate – acquired the returning rights to Paris Bass and Elijah Cain in a trade with the South Bay Lakers, per a press release. Bass is reportedly signing an Exhibit 10 deal with the Jazz, so the team clearly intends to have him play for the Stars — it remains to be seen whether Cain is also in SLC’s plans for 2022/23.

Jazz Trade Donovan Mitchell To Cavaliers

SEPTEMBER 8: The Jazz officially confirmed the trade of Mitchell in a press release. “Our entire organization wishes him every success in his future,” team owner Ryan Smith said in the release. “Once a Jazzman, always a Jazzman.”


SEPTEMBER 3: The Mitchell trade is now official, tweets Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com.

“The acquisition of Donovan Mitchell presented us with an incredible opportunity to bring one of the NBA’s most dynamic young All-Stars to Cleveland,” general manager Koby Altman said in the press release announcing the move. “Already a special and proven talent at just 25 years old, Donovan brings a competitive mentality that organically fits with the core group of this team.”


SEPTEMBER 1: The Cavaliers have agreed to a trade with the Jazz and will acquire star guard Donovan Mitchell, sources tell Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

According to Wojnarowski (via Twitter), Cleveland is sending three unprotected first-round picks and two pick swaps to Utah as part of the deal. Lauri Markkanen, first-round pick Ochai Agbaji, and Collin Sexton are also headed to the Jazz in the blockbuster trade, reports Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports (Twitter link).

Sexton is a restricted free agent, so he’ll need to be signed-and-traded as part of the agreement. His new deal with the Jazz will be worth $72MM over four years and will be fully guaranteed, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter links).

The three first-round picks going to Utah will be in 2025, 2027, and 2029, since Cleveland already owes its lottery-protected 2023 first-rounder to Indiana, as ESPN’s Bobby Marks tweets. The Jazz will have the ability to swap first-rounders with the Cavs in 2026 and 2028, tweets Wojnarowski.

John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7 first identified the Cavaliers last week as a team with interest in Mitchell, and Ian Begley of SNY.tv subsequently reported that Cleveland had “touched base” with Utah about the three-time All-Star guard.

Still, today’s news comes as a major surprise. Begley reported last Friday that the Cavs were removing themselves from the Mitchell negotiations, while Brian Windhorst of ESPN said Cleveland had made it clear to the Jazz in their earlier discussions that Darius Garland, Evan Mobley, and Jarrett Allen weren’t on the table. That seemingly made it difficult for the Cavs to meet Utah’s asking price.

However, the Cavs’ package will include most of the other noteworthy assets at their disposal, including all their tradable first-round picks, this year’s No. 14 overall selection (Agbaji), and Sexton, who is just one year removed from averaging 24.3 PPG and 4.4 APG on .475/.371/.815 shooting in 60 games (35.3 MPG).

As good as Sexton was in 2020/21, Mitchell represents an upgrade at the shooting guard position in Cleveland. In his last two seasons, he has averaged 26.1 points, 5.3 assists, and 4.3 rebounds per game in 120 appearances (33.6 MPG), with a shooting line of .444/.368/.849 shooting line. He’ll earn a $1.68MM trade bonus as part of the deal, Marks notes (via Twitter).

With a core of Mitchell, Garland, Mobley, and Allen, the Cavs will be led by a pair of star duos — an offensively-minded pairing in the backcourt and a rim-protecting duo in the frontcourt.

All of those cornerstone players will be under contract for at least the next three years. Garland signed a new five-year extension this offseason, Mobley’s rookie contract runs through 2025, Allen is in the second year of a five-year contract, and Mitchell is locked up through at least the 2024/25 season (he has a player option for ’25/26).

With their three-for-one trade, the Cavs no longer have to worry about a logjam on their 15-man roster and should, in fact, have one open spot to fill. Once the deal is official, they’ll have 12 players on fully guaranteed contracts, with Lamar Stevens and Dean Wade on non-guaranteed deals. They’ll also create a $3.9MM trade exception in the swap and remain $2.47MM below the tax line, according to Marks (Twitter link).

The Knicks had long been viewed as the frontrunners for Mitchell, but they were never willing to offer more than two unprotected first-round picks (in addition to other protected first-rounders), per Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report (Twitter link). Unprotected first-round picks and swaps had been the trade chips that Danny Ainge and the Jazz coveted most, as was the case when they acquired a similar return in exchange for Rudy Gobert earlier this summer.

The Knicks and Jazz reportedly reached an impasse earlier this week when the Knicks set an informal Monday night deadline to either agree to a Mitchell trade or extend RJ Barrett, who was being discussed as a possible centerpiece in several permutations of a Mitchell deal. New York ultimately decided to sign Barrett to an extension, which complicated salary matching in a potential trade due to the poison pill provision and brought those trade talks to a temporary halt.

While there was an expectation that the Knicks and Jazz would reengage in the coming weeks, their stalemate opened the door for Cavs general manager Koby Altman to circle back to Utah general manager Justin Zanik, according to Wojnarowski, who says (via Twitter) the two teams “reassembled” a deal they’d been discussing in previous weeks.

The Jazz are now in full rebuilding mode, having traded their two All-Stars in the two most significant deals of the NBA offseason. Taking into account the trades for Mitchell, Gobert, and Royce O’Neale, Utah has acquired eight future first-rounders this summer, and all but one of those picks is unprotected (the eighth is top-five protected). The Jazz also acquired three pick swaps and a pair of players who were drafted in the first round this June (Agbaji and Walker Kessler).

While the Jazz appear to be in teardown mode, their four-year investment in Sexton suggests he’s a major part of their long-term plans. Fischer had reported back in July that Utah was exploring a possible sign-and-trade for the 23-year-old, so he has been on the club’s radar for some time.

Sexton is coming off a lost season due to a torn meniscus, but should be fully healthy this fall and has shown in his first four NBA seasons that he’s capable of becoming one of the league’s highest-scoring guards. Utah also views Markkanen and Agbaji as keepers going forward, tweets Wojnarowski.

Once the trade is official, the Jazz will have 17 players on fully guaranteed contracts, so more roster moves – either cuts, trades, or both – will be coming before opening night. Veterans like Mike Conley, Bojan Bogdanovic, Malik Beasley, and Jordan Clarkson could still be on the trade block.

While it shouldn’t have much of an impact on their roster moves, it’s also worth noting that the Jazz will face a hard cap of $156.98MM for the rest of the 2022/23 league year once they formally sign-and-trade for Sexton. For now, they’re $1.7MM below the tax line ($150.27MM), tweets Marks.

More Than 30 NBA Players On Track To Suit Up For EuroBasket

The first EuroBasket tournament in five years will tip off in two weeks and there are currently 34 NBA players on track to participate in the event, representing 17 different countries, according to Johnny Askounis of Eurohoops.net.

EuroBasket is a 24-team international basketball competition also known as the European Basketball Championship. It historically took place every two years, but that gap was recently adjusted to four years, emulating the FIBA World Cup schedule.

The last EuroBasket tournament was played in 2017 — the next one had been scheduled for 2021, but was pushed back due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the postponement of the Tokyo Olympics. As a result, after being played every two years since 1947, it has now been five years since the last EuroBasket tournament, easily the longest layoff since World War II.

It’s possible that some NBA players will be cut from their teams’ rosters or will have to drop out due to injuries or personal reasons before the event begins on September 1, but in general enthusiasm to participate in the long-awaited event appears high.

Here’s the list of NBAers currently set to play in EuroBasket, per Eurohoops:

There are also multiple NBA free agents on EuroBasket rosters, including French swingman Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot and German guard Dennis Schröder.

A number of young NBA players, such as 2022 draftees Jeremy Sochan and Nikola Jovic, have dropped out to focus on getting ready for the 2022/23 season, while others, including Bogdan Bogdanovic (Serbia) and Frank Ntilikina (France), were ruled out due to injuries.

Round robin play will begin on September 1, with each team facing the other five clubs in its group once. The top four teams in each group will advance to a 16-team bracket that begins on September 10. The final will take place on September 18, just over a week before NBA training camps get underway.

Cavs To Hold Player-Led Mini-Camp In Los Angeles

A number of Cavaliers players will meet next week in Los Angeles for a voluntary mini-camp, according to Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com, who reports that All-Star guard Darius Garland and Rookie of the Year runner-up Evan Mobley are helping to organize the workouts.

Sources tell Fedor that the majority of Cavs players are expected to participate, though some of the team’s international players may not make it to L.A. due to overseas obligations, including to their national teams. That group includes Lauri Markkanen, Cedi Osman, and Raul Neto.

Collin Sexton also won’t be attending the mini-camp, since he’s still a restricted free agent and isn’t under contract with the Cavaliers, Fedor notes.

A number of clubs around the NBA hold voluntary offseason mini-camps to help improve team chemistry and to prepare for the season. As Fedor writes, LeBron James used to organize them during his Cleveland days, and handed off that responsibility to Kevin Love in recent years.

Love spoke at the end of the 2021/22 season about possibly holding a mini-camp in Austin or Nashville, according to Fedor, who says the possibility of player-led workouts taking place in Nashville next month remains on the table.

Eastern Notes: Simmons, Nets, Cavaliers, Bitadze

Nets guard Ben Simmons won’t play on Thursday in Philadelphia, but he’s expected to be with the team at Wells Fargo Center, reports Shams Charania of Stadium (video link). Simmons figures to face plenty of vitriol from the Sixers faithful, but it will likely be diluted to some extent by the fact that he’ll be on the bench rather than on the court. According to Charania, there’s optimism that Simmons will make his Nets debut later this month.

  • If the Nets were to win a title this year, it would be bad for the NBA, argues Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News. Brooklyn has “blatantly treated the regular season as a waste of time,” according to Bondy, who notes that Kyrie Irving essentially chose not to play in over half of this season’s games, while the team traded a superstar for a player (Simmons) who will require a ramp-up process of more than a month.
  • Having sustained both a quad contusion and a fractured finger in Sunday’s game, Cavaliers center Jarrett Allen has reportedly been ruled out indefinitely. While the team hasn’t issued an update on Allen’s status, Evan Mobley and Lauri Markkanen sound prepared to adjust their roles if the All-Star big man misses time, as Kelsey Russo of The Athletic relays. Kevin Love would play in my position; it would just shift down the line,” Mobley said. “Lauri could also play four more often because it would be less. But we still got like three bigs, me, K-Love and Lauri. So we’re still a very big team, and I feel like we can still play a similar way as we have.”
  • Pacers center Goga Bitadze had a career night on Sunday with 20 points on 7-of-7 shooting, as James Boyd of The Indianapolis Star writes. The third-year center, who hasn’t been a regular part of Indiana’s rotation since being drafted in the first round in 2019, has a chance to prove his value down the stretch before becoming extension-eligible this summer.

Cavaliers Notes: Markkanen, Garland, LeVert

After several weeks of rehabbing his injured right ankle, Lauri Markkanen is eager to help the Cavaliers make a playoff push, as Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com relays. Markkanen suffered a high ankle sprain on Jan. 22 against Oklahoma City and has missed Cleveland’s last 11 games.

Markkanen was a full participant in practice Wednesday and is listed as probable for the team’s game Thursday. A source told Fedor that the Cavs are preparing as if the forward will return Thursday at Detroit. Markkanen said he was relieved that the injury wasn’t as serious as he initially thought and is excited to be back.

I’m excited,” Markkanen said when asked about his impending return. “We always talk about playing meaningful games after the All-Star break and it’s definitely every game matters. I just love doing it with these guys and can’t wait to get out there.

We have a great group of guys and we’re a great team. We just have to bring it every night, no matter who we are playing and we gotta play Cavaliers basketball every night. I think we’re going to be fine if we do that and play together. We definitely need everybody at this point of the year. Going to need everybody’s contribution on the court. Have to be focused, especially with Eastern Conference being so tight. Every game matters. Have to be locked in.”

The Cavs currently hold the fourth seed in the East with a 35-23 record.

Here’s more from Cleveland:

  • While the team received good news with Markkanen’s return appearing imminent, Cleveland will be without Darius Garland and Caris LeVert on Thursday, Fedor writes in a separate article for Cleveland.com. Garland continues to have lower back soreness, while LeVert suffered a sprained right foot after he stepped on a teammate’s foot during Tuesday’s practice.
  • Sources tell Fedor that LeVert’s injury isn’t serious and he’s considered day-to-day. He did not practice on Wednesday. During the All-Star break, coach J.B. Bickerstaff had been contemplating starting the newly-acquired LeVert alongside Garland in the backcourt. Bickerstaff is still trying to figure out where LeVert is most comfortable on the court. “Had some conversations about where he’s comfortable, where he likes the ball, places where he’s had most success in his past,” Bickerstaff said. “I think we have a great understanding of how we can get it done. The next thing becomes actually going out and doing it. That involves the other four guys that are on the floor with him, and understanding how they build that chemistry. Our picture is clear, we just need the experience and the minutes together to make it successful.” Developing that chemistry will have to wait with LeVert sidelined.
  • Garland’s situation is much trickier, Fedor details. He was able to participate in All-Star weekend, where he was named to the team for the first time, but his lower back will need to be managed for the remainder of the season, sources tell Fedor. Garland has been dealing with the soreness since Jan. 9, and the pain can pop up during any type of contact. With the nature of his injury, in most cases Garland would need two weeks of rest to allow for proper healing, treatment and recovery, per Fedor’s sources. However, Garland doesn’t want to miss that much time, and the Cavs need him to win games. They will continue to closely monitor how he’s feeling and try to give him rest days during the season so he’s in good shape for the playoffs — assuming they make it.