When the Los Angeles Lakers take on the Chicago Bulls Tuesday night, Lonzo Ball and Kyle Kuzma won’t be the only standout rookies on the floor. They’ll be joined by first-year forward Lauri Markkanen, who will suit up for Chicago.
“He’s going to be a handful for us tonight,” Lakers head coach Luke Walton said after the team’s morning shootaround.
“He’s been really good. He’s obviously an intelligent player, because he went to U of A, so he makes good decisions. It’s impressive for a rookie to be able to put up numbers he’s putting up right now,” Walton said.
With averages of 15.6 points and eight rebounds, Markannen is the only rookie in the NBA right now to lead their team both such categories, but it’s more than just his raw numbers that have impressed Walton.
“To shoot the NBA three normally takes a little more time to get used to. He’s shooting that thing pretty well and consistent right now,” Walton said.
The Lakers have had the fourth-best defensive efficiency in the NBA so far, allowing just 100.6 points per 100 possessions while holding opponents to the ninth-lowest percentage of 3-point attempts (32.5 percent) in the league.
And when opponents have launched threes, the Lakers have defended them well, as opposing offenses have only made 32.1 percent of their threes against the Lakers, good for the third-lowest mark in the NBA.
Making matters easier for Los Angeles will be that outside of Markannen, the Bulls don’t have a ton of threats offensively, which is why they are tied with the Sacramento Kings for the league’s worst offense while scoring 95.1 points per 100 possessions.
Suffice to say, if the Lakers can keep Markannen off the 3-point line and force the ball to the rest of the Bulls, he’ll be a lot less of a “handful.”
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