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Ex-Arizona star Lauri Markkanen named NBA’s Most Improved Player

NBA: Utah Jazz at Brooklyn Nets Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

Lauri Markkanen’s breakout first season with the Utah Jazz earned him praise and accolades around the NBA, including a spot in the league’s All-Star Game.

On Monday, Markkanen’s efforts earned him an even bigger honor: NBA Most Improved Player.

The 7-foot, Finnish forward averaged career highs in points (25.6), rebounds (8.6) and shooting percentage (.499) with the Jazz after being traded to Utah this past summer. Those numbers represented major improvements from Markkanen’s first five years in the league, four spent in Chicago and one in Cleveland.

Behind Markkanen’s play, the Jazz posted a 37-45 record.

Accepting the award on NBA TNT, Markkanen credited his strong 2022-23 campaign to being in the right place in the right time, beginning with a stellar EuroBasket performance with the Finnish national team last year.

Markkanen is second Arizona product to win MIP, joining Gilbert Arenas who won the award in 2003 with the Washington Wizards.

Markkanen played one season for the Wildcats in 2016-17, earning third team All-American honors on 15.6 points and 7.2 rebounds per game.

Markkanen is spending part of the NBA offseason serving in the Finnish military. Men in Finland under the age of 30 have a six-month commitment to serve in the army.

Markkanen discussed the experience in his interview with NBA TNT.