Lauri Markkanen Finally Got Aggressive Last Night and It Totally Worked

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Lauri Markkanen Finally Got Aggressive Last Night and It Totally Worked

Chicago Bulls

Oh, Lauri Markkanen … you silly goose!

Wait … *googles national bird of Finland*

Oh, Lauri Markkanen, you silly Whooper Swan!

The third-year big man apparently performed a ruse during the preseason, playing with an all-to-familiar lack of aggression, hiking up three-point shots from the corner and hesitantly driving toward the hoop. It was enough to make us wonder if he’d actually take that obviously available (depending on his aggressiveness), but always difficult step-forward this season.

But as it turns out, he was just saving his energy for the Hornets, because last night we saw the bigger, more assertive Markkanen – the one the Bulls teased throughout the offseason.

And it was beautiful:

In our weekly preview, Markkanen was the player we said to keep an eye one, and boy did that pay off fast. We knew the Hornets carry a less than stellar frontcourt, and The Finnisher took full advantage, dropping 35 points (13-25) with a staggering 17 rebounds. And after limited time at the free-throw line in the preseason, Markkanen bullied his way to 10 free throw attempts, knocking down eight.

Positivity aside, did you notice what’s missing?

Markkanen made only one three-pointer on the night, going 1-7. While I’m never going to say missing three’s is a good thing, the fact Markkanen sank only a single shot behind the arc and still scored 35 points is a very encouraging sign.

We saw way more of Markkanen in motion and handling the basketball, something he’s always done surprisingly well for a player with his frame. I love seeing Markkanen work off the dribble along the perimeter and then attack toward the rim, especially against a weaker frontcourt. Obviously, this isn’t going to be the case every night (on Friday he plays a much better Grizzlies frontcourt with Jaren Jackson Jr. and Jonas Valanciunas), but it’s encouraging to see Markkanen realize the matchup and make use of it.

Last night, he was the third-leading scorer in the entire NBA, and that means something. He had plenty of smart, appropriate comments on the team’s overall poor performance after the game, but I hope that doesn’t stop him from recognizing he played well … and it wasn’t because he hung out behind the arc.

The test now for Markkanen will be to keep the aggression up. Even though the competition will improve, Markkanen still packs an elite skill set that should give most frontcourts problems. His size, speed, and craftiness is a special blend, and we’ve just been waiting to see him use it on a consistent basis.

He seems to be aware of that:

When Zach LaVine begins to perform as many expect he will, Markkanen’s opportunities will go down. However, if you combine this more aggressive Markkanen with a normal LaVine, then we’ll finally start to see the elite NBA duo come to fruition.

Let’s see what we get tomorrow.

(Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

Author: Elias Schuster

Elias Schuster is a writer for Bleacher Nation and a human being. You can follow him on Twitter @Schuster_Elias.