Ben Anderson: Yes, Lauri Markkanen will be an All-Star

Feb 2, 2023, 2:52 PM | Updated: Feb 3, 2023, 1:28 pm
Utah Jazz forward Lauri Markkanen (23) goes to the basket as Toronto Raptors forward Scottie Barnes...
Utah Jazz forward Lauri Markkanen (23) goes to the basket as Toronto Raptors forward Scottie Barnes (4) defends during the first half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2023, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
(AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

SALT LAKE CITY – The NBA is set to announce the All-Star reserves tonight on TNT at 5 pm MT, and Utah Jazz fans should expect Lauri Markkanen to hear his name called.

The Finnish forward has had a stellar season, averaging 24.9 points, 8.7 rebounds, and 1.8 assists while shooting 52 percent from the floor, 43 percent from three, and 87 percent from the free throw line.

He’s also led the Jazz, a team many expected to finish with one of the worst records in the league, to a 27-26 record past the midway point of the season.

And while Markkanen’s numbers and the Jazz’s surprising success are strong reasons for the forward to earn his first All-Star nod, there’s plenty more evidence supporting his case.

Markkanen’s availability

Let’s be clear, it’s extremely difficult to make an All-Star team regardless of which conference you play in. With only 12 spots available, and five chosen by a mixture of fan, media, and player voting, it’s difficult for any player from the state of Utah to earn a starting spot.

That means they have to be one of the two backcourt, three frontcourt, or two wild card reserves chosen by NBA coaches to fill out the roster.

It just so happens, the frontcourt in the West this season has been lacking.

FILE — NBA Commissioner Adam Silver announces the 2023 All-Star Game is coming to Salt Lake City. (KSL TV)

Forwards and centers in the West this season have been ravaged by injury, especially among the conference’s more traditional perennial starters.

Kawhi Leonard has been named an All-Star each of the last five seasons he was healthy but has played only 29 games this year.

Paul George is a seven-time All-Star but has only played 37 games.

Anthony Davis is an eight-time All-Star but has appeared in only 28 games.

Last year Andrew Wiggins earned a surprise starting nod in the West but has missed 20 games of his own.

Rudy Gobert will miss his first All-Star game in four seasons due to a down statistical season with the Minnesota Timberwolves, while teammate Karl-Anthony Towns, a three-time All-Star himself, hasn’t suited up since November 28.

The simple fact that Markkanen has appeared in 48 of the Jazz’s 53 games this season while maintaining his strong averages might be his strongest argument to be an All-Star.

In fact, several voters around the league preferred Markkanen to All-Starter Zion Williamson, who hasn’t played since Jan. 2.

The competition

Though numerous Western Conference frontcourt players have been injured, it’s not as though Markkanen doesn’t have real competition to make the All-Star team.

The Jazz forward is far from the only player having a breakout season on a team outperforming expectations.

Domantas Sabonis, like Markkanen, should be a shoo-in to make the All-Star team. The Sacramento Kings have the third-best record in the West, Sabonis is averaging a very efficient 18.8 points per game, leads the league in rebounding at 12.3 per game, and is handing out 7.1 assists per game.

There’s a real argument to be made that Sabonis should have been chosen ahead of Williamson as a starter, and is the reason he is set to make his third career All-Star appearance.

Denver Nuggets forward Aaron Gordon is also having a standout season for the top-ranked team in the West. Gordon is averaging 16.8 points, 6.8 rebounds, and 2.7 assists while shooting a career-best 57 percent from the floor and 38 percent from the three-point line.

But while Gordon’s team has outperformed the Jazz, his numbers are inferior to Markkanen’s nearly across the board, and he’s the third-best player on the Nuggets behind MVP-favorite Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray.

It’s no knock on Gordon, but he shouldn’t be in over Markkanen.

The only other frontcourt player in the West who could make an argument to earn an All-Star nod is Warriors big man Draymond Green whose numbers this season are nearly identical to last year when he was named a reserve.

Jerami Grant has also had arguably his best season as a pro averaging 21.2 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 2.3 assists while shooting a stellar 48 percent from the floor and 42 percent from three.

Like Gordon, he carries a bigger burden defensively than Markkanen most nights he steps on the floor.

However, Grant doesn’t have the benefit of a strong team record to buoy his candidacy with Portland sitting a game back of the Jazz in the Western Conference standings.

And again, his numbers, outside of assists, don’t stack up with Markkanen.

Green is averaging 7.9 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 6.8 rebounds, and is viewed as the catalyst for the Warriors’ defense.

However, the Warriors’ defense has tanked this season dropping from second in the league last year to 15th this year. Similarly, the team has fallen in the standings, as they sit nine games back of first place in the West, tied with the Jazz.

Simply put, the defensive intangibles that have made Green a four-time All-Star simply haven’t been there this season.

Markkanen’s All-Star momentum

In addition to the resume he’s built, and the competition he has, recent evidence shows Markkanen is a likely favorite to be named an All-Star tonight.

The forward performed surprisingly well throughout All-Star voting among fans and even outperformed that among media members and fellow NBA players.

Markkanen received the seventh-most fan votes among Western Conference frontcourt players but finished fourth among NBA players, and fifth by the media.

Based on the combined vote from the fans, players, and media, Markkanen would safely be the second reserve chosen in the Western Conference frontcourt behind Anthony Davis, but ahead of Sabonis.

Additionally, a look around the league seems to indicate Markkanen is a lock to be chosen.

According to the seven writers at nba.com, Markkanen and Sabonis are the universal choices to earn the top reserves spots.

Similarly, all four members of the NBA on TNT crew, including Shaquille O’Neal, Charles Barkley, and Kenny Smith agreed that Markkanen should be chosen as a reserve.

Ultimately, the fact that the All-Star reserves are chosen by 30 NBA coaches means there must be room allowed for human error.

And, it is possible that just enough coaches fill out their All-Star reserve ballot based on name value alone, and not on the players’ 2022-23 resumes.

But barring one of the more cataclysmic failures by the top basketball coaches in the world, Lauri Markkanen will be chosen as an All-Star tonight.

Ben Anderson is the Utah Jazz insider for KSL Sports and the co-host of Jake and Ben from 10-12p with Jake Scott on 97.5 The KSL Sports Zone. Find Ben on Twitter at @BensHoops or on Instagram @BensHoops.

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

KSL All-Star Access

(KSL TV)...
Katija Stjepovic

Local Black-owned businesses participate in weekend retail experience

Many Black-owned businesses saw a welcomed economic boost from NBA All-Star weekend. Now, the Utah Black Chamber of Commerce wants to keep that alive with a new weekend retail experience.
12 days ago
Bottles of alcohol...
Shelby Lofton

State says temporary liquor store set up for All-Star weekend was a success

State officials say the temporary liquor store set up for NBA All-Star weekend was a success, but they're also looking at ways to improve.
22 days ago
Savanah Norman...
Tamara Vaifanua

Local makeup artist stands out during NBA All-Star weekend

KSL TV's Tamara Vaifanua introduces us to a local makeup artist who picked up her most famous client to date – Gabrielle Union.
1 month ago
This week on Sunday Edition, Doug Wright and his guests look at the impact the NBA All-Star weekend...

Sunday Edition: NBA All-Stars, Legislative Session 2023 Final Weeks

This week on Sunday Edition, Doug Wright and his guests look at the impact the NBA All-Star weekend will have on Utah and the final weeks of the 2023 legislative session.
1 month ago
(Ryan Young)...
Debbie Worthen

Utah father, son given free tickets to NBA All-Star Game after chance encounter

A father and son from Draper, Utah, got the surprise of a lifetime during the NBA All-Star weekend.
1 month ago
(Shelby Lofton/KSL TV)...
Shelby Lofton

Black business owners call NBA All-Star weekend ‘a win’ for Utah’s Black community

African American business owners in Utah say this weekend was a win for the Black community, adding that having the NBA in town gave them a big boost in business.
1 month ago

Sponsored Articles

Stack of old laptops with dark background...
PC Laptops

Old Laptop Upgrades You Need to Try Before Throwing it Away

Get the most out of your investment. Try these old laptop upgrades before throwing it out to keep it running fast and efficient.
Happy diverse college or university students are having fun on their graduation day...
BYU MBA at the Marriott School of Business

How to Choose What MBA Program is Right for You: Take this Quiz Before You Apply!

Wondering what MBA program is right for you? Take this quiz before you apply to see if it will help you meet your goals.
Close up of an offset printing machine during production...
Les Olson IT

Top 7 Reasons to Add a Production Printer to Your Business

Learn about the different digital production printers and how they can help your company save time and money.
vintage photo of lighting showroom featuring chandeliers, lamps, wall lights and mirrors...
Lighting Design

History of Lighting Design | Over 25 Years of Providing Utah With the Latest Trends and Styles

Read about the history of Lighting Design, a family-owned and operated business that paved the way for the lighting industry in Utah.
Fiber Optical cables connected to an optic ports and Network cables connected to ethernet ports...
Brian Huston, CE and Anthony Perkins, BICSI

Why Every Business Needs a Structured Cabling System

A structured cabling system benefits businesses by giving you faster processing speeds and making your network more efficient and reliable.
notebook with password notes highlighted...
PC Laptops

How to Create Strong Passwords You Can Actually Remember

Learn how you can create strong passwords that are actually easy to remember! In a short time you can create new ones in seconds.
Ben Anderson: Yes, Lauri Markkanen will be an All-Star