Markkanen, Dunn share new perspective on NBA in Utah

SALT LAKE CITY – Lauri Markkanen and Kris Dunn could have fallen victim to the cruel business that is the NBA.

As high-lottery picks, both players faced the kind of adversity that those who can’t or won’t face early in their careers to survive in the most competitive league on the planet.

Markkanen, the seventh pick in the 2017 draft, was dealt by the Minnesota Timberwolves to the Chicago Bulls on draft night as the once legendary franchise began another rebuilding project.

Entering that trade was Dunn, who was drafted fifth overall by the Timberwolves a year earlier after a lackluster rookie season in Minnesota.

Markkanen, coming off an all-star rookie campaign, would be plagued by injury for the next three seasons in Chicago.

Heart palpitations, ankle, back and shoulder injuries would force the Bulls to shift their rebuilding efforts to other players on the roster, robbing Markkanen of crucial opportunities to grow early in his career.

Dunn would suffer similar, though more significant injuries during his time in Chicago.

The guard dislocated his front teeth after taking the first blow to his face in his first season with the Bulls, suffered a sprained MCL early in the 2018-19 season, and another sprained MCL in 2020 before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. .

After signing with Atlanta for the 2020 season, Dunn played in just four games with the Hawks before learning he needed microscopic surgery on his ankle to relieve knee and back pain.

After the surgery, the guard was traded to the Boston Celtics and targeted by the Memphis Grizzlies before being waived in 2021 because he never suited up for the roster.

Dunn appeared in 14 games last season with the Portland Trail Blazers, but hit free agency in the summer of 2022 and did not find an NBA home to start the season.

The veteran then signed with the Capitol City Go-Go’s, a move he credited the G League with helping his game grow.

“I was able to find my rhythm,” Dunn said. “Understand a little [about the NBA game]how things are run.”

Dunn signed with the Jazz last month and has been one of the team’s best players this season.

The guard is averaging 11.7 points, 5.4 assists and 4.3 rebounds while shooting 52 percent from the floor and 45 percent from three, both career highs.

Markkanen has had even more success with the Jazz, being named to his first All-Star team while competing for a spot on the elusive NBA roster.

With their recent success in Utah, Markkanen and Dunn admitted they have new perspectives on the NBA.

“You appreciate it more when you’ve been through those tough times,” Markkanen admitted. “I’ve said it before, it won’t always be a smooth ride. Keep working and keep believing and everything happens for a reason.”

At 26 years old, Markkanen has rebuilt his career and looks to be the future of the Jazz franchise.

While Dunn, 29, may not be able to recapture the same highs upon his return to the NBA, he acknowledges how his ups and downs have shaped him.

“Those tough times make you a better person,” Dunn said. “Even off the court, I think you mature a little bit more and kind of understand the business of the NBA and learn how to navigate it.”

While Markkanen figures to be the face of the Jazz for the foreseeable future, he and Dunn will have the opportunity to continue their careers together next season in Utah.

The Jazz have a one-year team option on the guard next season, and barring any surprises, Dunn is a safe bet to return to the roster, and he couldn’t be happier.

“When you work hard and you’re able to achieve something like this,” Dunn said, “it’s a good feeling for you.”

Ben Anderson is KSL Sports’ Utah Jazz expert and host of Jake and Ben from 10-12 with Jake Scott. 97.5 KSL Sports Zone. Find Ben on Twitter @BensHoops or on Instagram @BensHoops.

Related Articles

Sorry, delete AdBlocks

Add Ban ads I wish to close them