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Arizona basketball roundtable: On Lauri Markkanen’s recent slump

Are the freshman’s recent struggles a cause for concern?

Arizona v Oregon Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images

In the last five games, Arizona Wildcats freshman Lauri Markkanen’s production and efficiency have taken a sharp turn downwards, averaging just 7.6 points and 5.0 rebounds over that stretch. He’s also shooting 27.2% from the field during this stretch, dropping him to 49.4% on the season.

Prior to the last four games, Markkanen had only failed to reach double figures in the scoring department once (Missouri). Now he’s done it in four consecutive games.

So are we concerned about this recent drop off by the Finnish star? We discuss that below:

Brandon Hill: Yes and no, depending on whether it’s chronic or acute. It’s common for freshmen to hit a wall as the season wears on, even an international player like Markkanen. Plus the team is integrating Allonzo Trier back into the offense so everyone is adjusting to minutes, roles, and shots. All that said, Markkanen needs to be a factor for Arizona to be truly dangerous, particularly as an outside shooter. This four game stretch shooting 5-for-25 from the field (and 4-for-16 from three) needs to be a temporary slump and I think things will again move back toward the mean. If not, then there is major cause for concern. On the bright side, the Cats were still 3-1 in those games.

Ryan Kelapire: Yes, but not because of Markkanen’s ability as a player, more so because Arizona has not been able to get him the ball in favorable spots to score. Teams have changed how they’re guarding him (they are switching screens and glued to him on the perimeter) and Arizona has not been able to adjust.

Sean Miller mentioned last week that that was a point of emphasis for Arizona, yet it did not come to fruition. And right now the question is: Will it ever?

Steve Apter: He's started to gain a lot of notoriety and certainly teams are going to devote more attention to him. He's an excellent jump shooter...those shots will start to fall again. Where he can improve is adding a back to the basket game and assertively cutting to the hoop and moving without the ball to get in more favorable position while shooting more free throws. The entire offense needs to gel a bit more, this isn't all on Lauri to improve. He'll be fine.

David Potts: No. He’s a freshman, and it’s not that surprising to see him start to struggle this late in the year. I’m confident that he’ll be able to get it going again. And if he doesn’t? It’s not like opposing defenses are going to start giving him wide open shots. Because of how he plays — and the threat he poses around the three point line — opposing defenses are always going to have to account for him. That means that even if he’s struggling, Lauri’s very presence helps the Wildcats space the floor. That’s one of the best things about Lauri’s game: even if he’s struggling, opposing defenses still have to account for him, which opens things up for everyone else.