Markkanen, Dunn Share New Outlook On Careers In Utah

Mar 21, 2023, 2:13 PM | Updated: 2:14 pm

SALT LAKE CITY – Lauri Markkanen and Kris Dunn could have fallen victim to the cruel business that is the NBA.

Once high-lottery picks, both players faced the type of adversity early in their careers that preys on those unable, or unwilling to put in the work necessary to survive in the most competitive league on the planet.

Markkanen, the seventh overall pick in the 2017 draft was traded by the Minnesota Timberwolves on draft night to the Chicago Bulls as the once-legendary franchise began another rebuilding project.

Included in that trade was Dunn, who had been selected fifth overall by the Timberwolves one year earlier, after an underwhelming rookie season in Minnesota.

Markkanen, after a stellar rookie campaign, would fall victim to injury in each of his next three seasons in Chicago.

A rapid heartbeat, ankle, back, and shoulder injuries would force the Bulls to shift their rebuilding efforts to other players on the roster, robbing Markkanen of crucial opportunities to grow early in his career.

Dunn would experience similar, albeit more significant injuries during his time in Chicago.

The guard dislocated his front teeth after taking a face-first spill during his first season with the Bulls, suffered a sprained MCL early in the 2018-19 season, then suffered another MCL sprain in 2020 just before the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

After signing with Atlanta during the 2020 offseason, Dunn played only four games with the Hawks before it was discovered that he needed microscopic surgery on his ankle to ease the pain in his knee and back.

After the surgery, the guard was then traded to the Boston Celtics and rerouted to the Memphis Grizzlies before being waived in 2021, having never suited up for either roster.

Dunn appeared in 14 games for the Portland Trail Blazers last season but hit free agency in the summer of 2022, and didn’t find an NBA home to begin the season.

That’s when the veteran signed with the Capitol City Go-Go, a move he credited to the G League with helping to grow his game.

“I was able to find my pace,” Dunn said. “Understand a little bit [about the NBA game], how things are run.”

Dunn signed with the Jazz last month, and has been one of the best in-season additions by any team this season.

The guard is averaging 11.7 points, 5.4 assists, and 4.3 rebounds while shooting 52 percent from the floor and 45 percent from three, both career highs.

Markkanen has experienced even greater success with the Jazz, being named to his first All-Star team while competing for a spot on the elusive All-NBA roster.

With their recent successes in Utah, both Markkanen and Dunn admitted they have newfound perspectives on the NBA.

“You appreciate it more when you’ve had those tough times,” Markkanen admitted. “I’ve said it before, it’s not going to be a smooth ride at all times. You just keep working and keep believing and everything happens for a reason.”

At 26, Markkanen has rebuilt his career, and looks to be the future of the Jazz franchise.

Though Dunn, 29, has yet to recapture those same highs in his return to the NBA, he recognizes how his adversities have shaped him.

“Those tough times just make you a better person,” Dunn said. “Even off the court, I think you mature a little bit more and kind of understand the business of the NBA and learn how to navigate through it.”

While Markkanen figures to be the face of the Jazz for the foreseeable future, he and Dunn will get a chance to continue their careers together next season in Utah.

The Jazz have a one-year team option for the guard next season, and barring unforeseen circumstances, Dunn is a safe bet to return to the roster, and he couldn’t be happier.

“When you put the hard work in and you’re able to achieve something like this,” Dunn said, “it’s a good feeling for yourself.”

Ben Anderson is the Utah Jazz insider for KSL Sports and the co-host of Jake and Ben from 10-12p with Jake Scott on 97.5 The KSL Sports Zone. Find Ben on Twitter at @BensHoops or on Instagram @BensHoops.

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Markkanen, Dunn Share New Outlook On Careers In Utah