As the Cleveland Cavaliers wait for the preseason to begin, with the looming specter of Collin Sexton and his contract situation, there are a few Cavaliers that are battling for their countries around the world. One is a seasoned veteran and the centerpiece for his country in Finland’s Lauri Markkanen, while the other is a new Cavalier and someone just beginning to make his mark in Australia’s Luke Travers. Both have shown out so far though, and hopefully Markkanen can take his performances back home, while Travers can hopefully continue his upward trajectory.
Mika Kylmäniemi/All Over Pres
Markkanen should be a starting fixture on the team as part of the Cavalier’s triple tower lineup. Markkanen is a bit of an odd small forward at a cool seven feet, but his ability to space the floor in what is generally a congested starting five is critical regardless of height. With Finland however, Markkanen is not just the floor spacer, but the star and he’s delivered in FIBA’s World Cup Qualifiers. Markkanen missed the first four qualifiers because they were in the middle of the season last year, and one of them was Finland’s only loss in the group so far. With Markkanen they are 4-0 and successfully qualified for the World Cup. He should be done internationally for the year, with Finland in and the games during the NBA season, so Markkanen’s four games are what he has, and it was a pretty good performance.
Overall he led Finland in both points (21.8) and rebounds (9.0) and was used a number of ways. Shouldering a larger load and being the focus of the defense will usually see a drop in efficiency, and for him to still shoot 47.1% overall is impressive. The 33% from three isn’t ideal, but it’s not bad considering a good portion of his offense was self-generated. Taking guys off the dribble or using his size advantage to get off mid-range jumpers were common sights. That’ll be harder in the NBA, but considering the position he’ll be playing he should still have a size advantage to use. He also threw down some thunderous dunks, ran transition breakaways and also had success as a roll man in the two-man game. It was a much more well-rounded look than what Markkanen often gets with the Cavs. Of course the competition was much lower too, but it’s worth remembering that Markkanen was once the talk of the NBA in 2018-2019 when he was just a 21 year-old NBA sophomore averaging 18.7 points on the Chicago Bulls. Markkanen won’t get too much of those opportunities with the Cavs, but it’s nice to see he still has it in him. The Cavaliers do need some extra ability to create isolation offense, which Markkanen was able to do with Finland. Who knows, maybe reuniting with Robin Lopez, a key piece of that 2018-2019 Bulls team, will lead to a bit of a revival.
Travers also got to see some minutes in World Cup qualifying, playing for the recent Olympic Bronze Medalist Australia. Travers is not the star Markkanen is (Australia is a better team overall to be fair) but Travers still ended up leading the team in PER at 23.5. Granted he only played two games (and 33 total minutes) against Bahrain and Iran, both blowouts, but it was still a good to see regardless. It was reminiscent of some of Travers’ Summer League games, piling up a lot of different numbers. He had nine boards against Bahrain, had four assists in both games, and had a crazy two steal, six block performance against Iran. The blocks in particular are something we’ve seen from Travers before. Encouragingly, he was able to do more on the scoring end for his country though. He only took nine shots, but made eight of them, including a triple and he was also 9/9 from the charity stripe. Developing a consistent shot will be key for Travers to making the jump overseas. Most of Travers’ buckets were wide open dunks and layups this time around, but he’s still young and it really does seem like all the other pieces are there. Unlike Markkanen, Travers might actually play in the rest of Australia’s World Cup Qualifying games in November and February. In fact, with Australia in the second round, Travers might get a real starting role. He seems like he’s earned the minutes.
Markkanen and Travers are in very different places in their careers, but both had the chance to play well for their country. Markkanen starred for Finland, while Travers might just be a budding star for the Boomers. Hopefully Markkanen can bring back some of that all-around scoring we saw for Finland, and hopefully Travers can carve out a bigger role with the Perth Wildcats for their respective upcoming seasons.
/ 1 day ago
Season Analysis The 2-0 Philadelphia Eagles will be traveling to Washington to take on...