Lauri Markkanen thought for quite some time that he was destined to be a Dallas Maverick.
And the 7-footer from Finland certainly was on the Mavericks’ radar during the 2017 draft.
The Mavericks never got the chance to select him. Markkanen was taken by Minnesota at No. 7, although the Wolves already had agreed to trade him as part of the package to get Jimmy Butler from Chicago.
Markkanen has been with the Bulls since and has blossomed into a strong all-around contributor. The Mavericks wound up with Dennis Smith Jr. with their pick at No. 9.
Markkanen said Monday before the Bulls took on the Mavericks at American Airlines Center that he thought there was a decent chance he’d end up in Dallas.
“I thought so,” Markkanen said. “I came here for a workout – actually I had my best workout here, I felt. I didn’t have any (idea) what number I was going to go at. Dallas was I think the lowest at nine.”
Indeed, the Mavericks were interested. And for good reason. He has developed into the kind of outside-shooting big man that every NBA team craves, averaging 15.1 points per game and shooting 35 percent from 3-point range. He had 12 points in the first quarter on Monday night.
Coach Rick Carlisle said Markkanen, indeed, had a terrific workout for the Mavericks. But . . .
“My understanding is he had a good workout everywhere he went,” Carlisle said. “He was shooting the ball at an amazing rate. He tested exceedingly high in all the athletic tests. And along with that, he showed that he has significant amount of upside as far as building strength. He was a great prospect.”
But things happen in sports happen, decisions get made, luck sometimes intervenes.
If the Mavericks had ended up with Markkanen, who knows if they would have had the chance to trade for Kristaps Porzingis, for whom they used Smith and others as the their trade chips.
“Things worked out,” Markkanen said. “Obviously, I think they have a great environment here. I would have been happy here, too. But things worked out perfectly for me.”
Thoughts on Luka: Of all the commentary about Luka Doncic, a couple of the best descriptions might have come from Bulls’ coach Jim Boylen, who was explaining why Doncic is so tough to guard.
“He uses his physical size – he’s like a linebacker handling the basketball,” Boylen said. “And then you add that with the skill level. He has unbelievable skill level. The step-back going left, the forceful drives going right. That combination of size, strength, skill level and decision-making makes him a special player.”
Markkanen, by the way, new Doncic long before anybody in the NBA. His Finnish team played against Doncic’s Slovenian team in the 2017 Eurobasket.
“They almost beat us, too,” said Doncic. “They were great.”
Indeed, Slovenia’s three-point win during group play over Finland was their closest game in the tournament.
“That was the first time I saw him,” Markkanen said. “I was 19 and he was 17, so just being a 17 year old and playing with that level, against men, I had no doubts after seeing how good he was. You couldn’t speed him up. Obviously, I knew how good he could be.”
Best wishes to Garrett: Carlisle is by far the longest-tenured professional coach in Dallas among the four major sports leagues.
On Monday, he got a chance to chat with former Cowboys’ coach Jason Garrett, whose contract was not renewed.
“He’s doing great,” Carlisle said. “His tenure there as a head coach was special for me because it was an opportunity to build a friendship with an exceptional leader and an exceptional coach.
“I spent a lot of time over there during our lockout year in 2011 and also subsequent years and I had great respect for the program he built there. There was an infrastructure and there was development. They were coached at a high level and there was a great understanding about chemistry and leadership.
“He’ll have another great opportunity, I’m sure of that.”