Richard Jefferson implies Lauri Markkanen’s time with Cavs is catalyst for success with Jazz

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Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports

Former Cleveland Cavaliers wing Richard Jefferson gave the Cavs some credit for Lauri Markkanen’s impressive season so far with the Utah Jazz.

Markkanen, who spent the 2021-22 season with the Cavs, was traded to Utah in the Donovan Mitchell deal this past offseason. However, Jefferson gave the Cavs and J.B. Bickerstaff credit for building up Markkanen’s confidence.

The No. 7 overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft had a solid rookie season with the Chicago Bulls, but his production fell off in his final two years in Chicago, partially due to injuries.

Chicago was content with letting Markkanen leave in free agency following his fourth NBA season, which could have caused his confidence to take a hit. It certainly doesn’t look like that’s been an issue since.

Last season, Markkanen was able to start fresh, playing in 61 games for the Cavs and averaging 14.8 points per game. He became a key piece for Cleveland, and now he’s thriving in Utah in a bigger role.

Markkanen is averaging 22.7 points, 8.8 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game this season while shooting 52.7 percent from the field and 34.1 percent from beyond the arc.

The Jazz are off to a great start, going 10-3 through their first 13 games and holding the top spot in the Western Conference after beating the Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday night.

Even though the Jazz were expected to tank this season after trading away Mitchell and Rudy Gobert in the offseason, Markkanen, Jordan Clarkson, Mike Conley and others have played well to start the 2022-23 campaign.

One NBA executive thinks the Jazz will make trades to help them move down to the bottom of the standings, but it’s hard to see the team moving on from Markkanen, given the start he’s had to the season.

At just 25 years old, Markkanen could be a solid player for Utah for years to come. The Cavs have certainly played well with Mitchell on the roster, and it looks like this trade could end up being a win-win for both teams.

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Peter is a graduate of Quinnipiac University where he covered the MAAC and college basketball for three years. He has worked for NBC Sports, the Connecticut Sun and the Meriden Record-Journal covering basketball and other major sports. Follow him on Twitter @peterdewey2.