Lauri Markkanen, a forward with the Utah Jazz, was named the Kia NBA Most Improved Player for the 2022–23 season.
The announcement was made soon after 2 a.m. local time on Tuesday in Helsinki, where Markkanen is serving his mandatory military obligation. This obligation is imposed upon all Finnish males before age 30, regardless of gender.
Markkanen said during the transmission of the announcement that he saw on TNT that he “Didn’t get up at 2 a.m. for nothing.” “I am enjoying it. I am honored to have this role.
Markkanen prevailed as the award winner, besting fellow candidates Shai Gilgeous-Alexander of Oklahoma City and Jalen Brunson of New York. Markkanen received 69 of the 100 first-place votes and was on every ballot. Gilgeous-Alexander came in second with 24 first-place votes, while Brunson took third with four first-place votes.
The six-year veteran, who just finished his first season with the Jazz after being moved from Cleveland during the summer of the previous year, improved his overall output and efficiency in his first season as an All-Star.
Markkanen had career highs in scoring (25.6), rebounding (8.6), assist (1.9), and free throw attempt (9.0) averages while shooting 49.9% from the field as a whole, 39.1% from 3-point range, and 87.5% from the free throw line. To earn a starting spot in the 2023 NBA All-Star Game held in Salt Lake City, he had to lead Utah in scoring, rebounding, and attempts at free throws.
The 7-foot big became the first player in the history of the NBA to score more than 200 3-pointers and 100 dunks in the same season. He set the record for this accomplishment earlier this year. In addition to Pascal Siakam, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Goran Dragic, Boris Diaw, and Gheorghe Muresan, he is the eighth foreign player to earn Most Improved Player. He joins the ranks of Hedo Turkoglu and Gheorghe Muresan.
After spending his first five NBA seasons as a reliable starter for Chicago and Cleveland, Markkanen’s ascent was as stunning as it was fast. At that time, he played for both teams. The native of Finland was selected seventh overall by Minnesota in the draft before being traded on the night of the draft in 2017. Before the trade, he led the Jazz to a start of 10-3 and had them in the mix for the postseason. However, injuries caused them to finish 12th in the Western Conference.
Donovan Mitchell, a multiple-time All-Star, was traded by the Jazz to the Cavs, and the Jazz received the greatest component of the return for him in the form of Lauri Markkanen, who is still only 25 years old. This trade has given the Jazz an instantly bright future. It marks the first time in the history of the Jazz franchise that a player has been recognized as the Most Improved Player.
Markkanen attributed his first season in Utah, which turned out to be his finest season to date, to be in “the right location at the right time.”