Two years ago, the Utah Jazz acquired Lauri Markkanen as part of the haul they received in the trade that sent Donovan Mitchell to the Cleveland Cavaliers.

At that point, Markkanen, the seventh overall pick of the 2017 NBA Draft, had been somewhat of a disappointment over the first five years of his career. All of that changed when he put on a Jazz uniform in the ‘22-’23 campaign.

The 7’0″ forward got off to a strong start for the Jazz and never looked back. He averaged 25.6 points, 8.6 rebounds, and 1.9 assists in 66 games, but what made his season truly impressive was his scoring efficiency.

Markkanen finished with elite shooting splits—49.9/39.1/87.5 (FG%/3P%/FT%) on high volume—emerging as one of the top scorers in the NBA. He was named an NBA All-Star for the first time in his career and also the 2023 NBA Most Improved Player, upping his per-game scoring average by almost 11 points.


This rise put Markkanen on the map. While his numbers took a slight dip in the most recent campaign, he has done enough in his two seasons with Utah to change his reputation from a potential draft bust to a hot commodity around the league.

Several teams have expressed interest in acquiring Markkanen from the Jazz as his rise into a premier offensive weapon has complicated their rebuilding efforts.

Two seasons ago, Utah’s team was built to tank for Victor Wembanyama in the 2023 NBA Draft, but they got off to a 10-3 start that put them in first place in the Western Conference. They eventually shifted gears and wound up winning just 37 games, which was the ninth worst record in the league and closer to the play-in tournament rather than the bottom of the standings.

Last season followed a similar script, albeit the Jazz did a better job of losing games, finishing with only 31 wins.

With the next few NBA Drafts expected to be filled with franchise-changing talents, it would not be a surprise if Utah’s general manager, Danny Ainge, decides to part ways with Markkanen. However, Ainge has built a reputation as a top-tier deal maker, which may delay any potential trade until he believes he is receiving an adequate haul.

One team reportedly in hot pursuit of Markkanen is the Golden State Warriors, who need another scorer to fill the void left by Klay Thompson. A potential pairing of Markkanen and Stephen Curry could reopen the Warriors’ window as title contenders given the potent scoring abilities of both players.

Another Western Conference team linked with the Finnish forward is the Sacramento Kings. The Kings, as currently constructed, seem to have peaked, and adding Markkanen to complete a “Big Three” with De’Aaron Fox and Domantas Sabonis could elevate them into one of the best teams in the West.

The San Antonio Spurs have also been reported as suitors for Markkanen. This, along with their recent move to acquire 12-time NBA All-Star point guard Chris Paul, suggests that their front office is looking to accelerate their rebuilding timeline. These developments are not surprising following the spectacular first season of reigning NBA Rookie of the Year Victor Wembanyama.

This duo could have been teammates on the Jazz had Markkanen and the rest of the team not outperformed two years ago. Now, they have a chance to team up on the Spurs. Markkanen profiles as an ideal teammate for Wembanyama given his floor-spacing ability, and it will be interesting to see if San Antonio ultimately decides to accelerate their timeline.

If Ainge decides to trade Markkanen, he will likely do so at an immense profit. Markkanen has blossomed during his time with the Jazz and should command at least a few first-round picks given today’s trade market.

Utah is going nowhere at the moment, and the best course of action for the still-improving forward might be a change of scenery so he can finally show everyone what he can do on the big stage.