Except for an injury scare, Chicago Bulls rookie #Lauri Markkanen is having a great EuroBasket tournament for Finland. The 20-year-old Markkanen led the host nation to a 2-1 win-loss record in its first three games, sending a message to everyone that Finland isn’t a team to be taken lightly.

Markkanen filling up the stat sheet

The 7-feet tall Lauri Markkanen is stuffing the stat sheet by averaging 24.3 points, 7.7 rebounds, and one block in three games for Finland in the #EuroBasket 2017 tournament. What makes this stat line more impressive is that Markannen is shooting 56.3 percent from the field, 53.8 percent from the three-point area, and 92.3 percent from the free throw line.

While the sample size is small, the fact that only a number of NBA players have had a 50-40-90 stat-line is a good sign of things to come for the young Finn. But to achieve this feat at such a young age and in a major tournament, albeit against a relatively weaker competition, is a telltale sign that Markannen is probably headed for NBA stardom. After all, only Larry Bird, Mark Price, Reggie Miller, Dirk Nowitzki, Kevin Durrant, Steph Curry, and Steve Nash have had 50-40-90 season in the NBA.

Finland proves it can win against the top teams in Europe

Finland joins France, Greece, Slovenia, Iceland, and Poland in Group A. Markkanen and company needs to finish in the top four of its group to advance to the Round of 16.

Finland drew France for its first game. France, ranked number four in the world by FIBA, has seven players with NBA experience on its roster and considered as the heavy favorite to win Group A.

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Markkanen led Finland to an 86-84 overtime victory against France, scoring a team-high 22 points, including seven in the overtime period. The University of Arizona product also grabbed seven boards for Finland, also a team-high.

Finland then faced FIBA world number 12 Slovenia next. The Finns were 1-3 in EuroBasket against Slovenia. Slovenia has two players on its roster with NBA experience: Goran Dragic and naturalized big man Anthony Randolph. Top NBA prospect Luka Doncic is also included in Slovenia’s lineup while Vlatko Cancar of the Denver Nuggets has yet to play in the NBA.

Markannen scored a team-high 24 points and grabbed 7 rebounds but it wasn’t enough as Finland fell short against Slovenia. The Finns fell behind by 10 points at halftime but used a big third quarter to challenge the Slovenians. In the end, however, Dragic proved too much to handle for Finland as the Miami Heat guard poured in a game-high 29 points.

Finland figured in another instant EuroBasket classic when the team defeated a determined Poland squad.

Markannen again led Finland with 27 points and nine rebounds, including eight points in the double overtime. Markkanen scored the last 5 points in the fourth quarter to send the game into overtime. The NBA rookie also scored the basket that sent the game into the second overtime with three seconds left in the game.

Markkanen and Finland will face take on Greece on September 5, and then Iceland on September 6. The Round of 16 knockout stage will start on September 9. The top 6 teams in this year’s EuroBasket will qualify for the FIBA Basketball World Cup to be held in China in 2019.

On being compared with Dirk Nowitzki

Following Lauri Markkanen’s impressive play in the 2017 FIBA EuroBasket, fans are now taking notice of the big man’s skills and how his play somewhat mirrors that of another European basketball great, Dirk Nowitzki. However, from a coaching perspective, no one knew both Nowitzki and Markkanen better than Henrik Dettman, the current head coach of the Finland national basketball team.

Dettman has a unique perspective with regards to the similarities between Nowitzki and Markkanen. After all, Dettman coached Nowitzki and the German national team from 1997 to 2003. Dettman confirms that “there are many similar things in the game that Dirk and Lauri play.”

Dettman also said that Markkanen’s performance in the EuroBasket 2017 is an indication that the young Finn is a special talent. According to Dettman, Markkanen has the potential to reach the former NBA MVP’s level if Markkanen will embody the same work ethic that Nowitzki has and if he stays healthy.

Even with Dettman’s unique perspective between the two big men, Markkanen being compared with Nowitzki is, of course, a bit premature and unfair at this point of Markannen’s career. However, from another point of view, just being mentioned in the same sentence with a future Hall of Famer is saying a lot. And the Chicago Bulls fans should be excited about Markkanen and what he could bring to the table.