<
>
Insider

Lauri Markkanen is already easing the blow from the Butler trade

Bulls rookie Lauri Markkanen has helped Finland advance at the 2017 Eurobasket. EPA/KIMMO BRANDT

HELSINKI, Finland -- Life-sized cardboard cutouts scattered throughout the city. No. 23 Finland jerseys flooding the 13,000-plus seats of Helsinki Arena. Red and black Chicago Bulls gear occasionally peering through the sea of blue and white.

And, most prominently, one 7-foot figurine that has stood in the middle of the city center during the 2017 Eurobasket. With curly hair, a cut frame, Kobe 8 Nikes and a mediocre wingspan, it's an exact carbon copy of Finland's youngest star.

"I haven't seen that one," Lauri Markkanen said as he analyzed a photo of his 7-foot plastic clone. He was sitting in the Crowne Plaza lobby less than 24 hours after knocking off Evan Fournier, Boris Diaw and France in the Eurobasket opener by scoring 22 points in 24 minutes.

"I have those shoes. They actually might be mine. Those are my Kobe 8s. Can you send me that photo?"

The 20-year-old Markkanen has rapidly evolved into the face of Finnish hoops, leading the national team known as "Susijengi," or Wolf Pack, to a 4-1 record during the Eurobasket group stage in Helsinki with wins over France, Poland, Greece and Iceland. Thanks to Markkanen's consistently clutch scoring and tremendous all-around play, Finland travels to Istanbul Thursday as one of the 16 remaining teams to compete for the 2017 European championship.

Back in the U.S., Markkanen is best known as one piece in the Chicago Bulls' widely criticized Jimmy Butler deal on draft night. So far Markkanen has shown that he's much more than a trade throw-in.