SALT LAKE CITY – Lauri Markkanen and Collin Sexton are the new faces of the Utah Jazz, and both players had to step into their new roles during Monday’s media day.
Both players were acquired in trade from Donovan Mitchell in early September and join the Jazz with high expectations from fans.
Although few people think the Jazz will compete for the playoffs, Markkanen, 25, and Sexton, 23, fit the age bracket and have the talent to lead the rebuilding team in the coming seasons. .
The two new team members discussed their trade with Utah and the roles they plan to fill with the Jazz.
Sexton must be united
There’s little doubt about Sexton’s ability to get buckets after averaging 24 points per game in just his third season in the NBA.
But its greatest strength may also be its greatest weakness. The blow to Sexton has been his shooting guard mentality and playmaking body type, too often seeking his own offense and failing to find his teammates.
Now in Utah, he seeks to change that reputation.
“I know I can score the ball,” Sexton said, “but also making sure I can get my teammates involved as well.”
Ever since the dust settled on Donovan Mitchell’s business, one thing has been bothering me.
Why was Cleveland so lukewarm on Collin Sexton?
— Ben Anderson (@BensHoops) September 16, 2022
Sexton averaged 4.4 assists in his final healthy season with the Cleveland Cavaliers, a jump from the 3.0 assists he averaged in his rookie and sophomore seasons.
For Sexton to take the next leap in his young career, he will need to balance his role as a playmaker in the Jazz’s backcourt and a go-to scorer.
“I’m going to be out there making plays for everyone, but also for myself and doing whatever the team needs,” Sexton said.
Markkanen confident in his own abilities
Markkanen may not have quite the same weight on his shoulders as Sexton does with the Jazz, but he will carry a heavy load nonetheless.
The Finnish striker is coming off an outstanding performance at EuroBasket where he concluded the tournament as the second top scorer with an impressive 27.9 points per game.
“I feel confident and I think it showed how I can play basketball,” Markkanen said on media day.
— KSL Sports (@kslsports) September 6, 2022
It’s easy to forget that Markkanen seemed destined for stardom after his second season with the Chicago Bulls. The forward averaged 18.7 points and 9.0 rebounds as a 21-year-old but missed the Bulls’ final seven games of the season after struggling with fatigue and a rapid heartbeat late in the year .
In his third year, Markkanen would be out for almost six weeks with a hip injury shortly before the season was halted due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
After a solid summer at EuroBasket, Markkanen is looking to continue his solid game with the Jazz.
“I didn’t surprise myself, I knew I could do this stuff,” said the striker. “But I think now is the time to try to get him here and keep going – to keep that good momentum going.”
That good momentum will require Markkanen to stay healthy in Utah. The forward played 68 games during his rookie season with the Bulls, but hasn’t played more than 61 games in any of his four seasons since.