Jazz Reveal Identity Over Blazers, Wembanyama, Scoot Offer Hope

Oct 4, 2022, 11:23 PM | Updated: Oct 14, 2022, 1:58 pm


Victor Wembanyama blocks Scoot Henderson at the rim (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

(Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY – The Utah Jazz got their first win of the Will Hardy era downing the Portland Trail Blazers 118-101 in their second preseason game while Victor Wembanyama and Scoot Henderson put on a show in Las Vegas.

Jordan Clarkson had 19 points to lead all Jazz scorers while Mike Conley, Kelly Olynyk, and Collin Sexton all finished in double-digits.

With now double the amount of data we have about the young Jazz roster, here’s a look at the strengths and weaknesses so far from the team through two games.

Jazz Early Strengths

Walker Kessler Intriguing Athletic Gifts

There are so few humans on the earth that stand 7-feet tall that when you find one, their odds of making the NBA jump exponentially. Then, with each additional basketball skill they show, their odds continue to grow.

Yes, it’s only been two games, but I’d say it’s a pretty safe bet that Walker Kessler is going to be an NBA rotation player due to his size and impressive early physical traits.

On this one play below you can see several skills that Kessler has that are unique for 7-footers.

First, his timing on the pick and roll was excellent. Second, the hands he showed to catch this ball are terrific, he also showed this in game one. Third, he was able to stop on the short roll before barreling into the defender for a charge. Fourth, he found Kelly Olynyk in the corner for an open three and was able to make the pass.

Any of those four skills by themselves would be intriguing for a rookie big man, but mixed together in that short of a timespan is impressive.

Kessler has a chance to be a very effective NBA player.

Mike Conley

Mike Conley was slept on this summer because of a lackluster playoff performance against the Dallas Mavericks last season.

However, the guard showed he still has what it takes to be a starter in the NBA. Conley scored 16 points on 6-9 shooting in 21 minutes and was a +11 on the floor.

If any teams in the NBA want to make the playoffs and are a point guard away (looking at you Chicago), they should start putting together trade packages for the Jazz veteran.

Stanley Johnson’s Defense

I maintain the Jazz include-Rudy-Gobert-At-All-Costs defensive scheme was part of the team’s perimeter peril last season, but I still don’t know if they had a defender with the tenacity, size, and athleticism of Stanley Johnson.

Johnson’s defense in the third quarter might have won the Jazz this game as he finished five points and five rebounds in 15 minutes.

Remember he was a lottery pick due to his size, athleticism, and defensive potential, and he showed all of those traits against Portland.

Using Sexton Off The Ball

I had wondered if Collin Sexton might assume Donovan Mitchell’s high-usage role on the Jazz this season, not unlike the way he played in Cleveland before his injury last season.

However, through two games a lot of Sexton’s damage has been done off the ball as a floor-spacing three-point shooter.

Sexton is 5-7 from the three-point line in his first two appearances off the bench, but he does only have three assists.

Jarred Vanderbilt’s Hustle

Jarred Vanderbilt truly doesn’t give up on plays, and in the preseason, that has meant he’s created several opportunities on the glass on both ends of the floor.

The forward grabbed seven rebounds against the Trail Blazers, most of them on contested areas of the floor.

He’s also a better ball handler than anticipated which allows him to be used in some dribble-hand-off situations.

Jazz Early Weaknesses

Walker Kessler’s Free Throw Shooting

For as much promise as Kessler has shown at times, his free throw shooting has been trouble through two games.

The rookie center is 4-9 from the stripe early in his career, including an airball against Portland.

There was some hope that Kessler could develop into a floor spacing center with the shooting touch he showed off his high school, but his shooting at the free throw line hasn’t inspired hope.

Talen Horton-Tucker’s Tunnel Vision

I don’t know if Talen Horton-Tucker passed the ball at any point during the first half of the game against the Trail Blazers.

The guard was the only player on the roster to see the floor and fail to record an assist in the opening 24 minutes and missed all three of his field goal attempts.

Horton-Tucker finished with four points on 2-8 shooting, five rebounds, three turnovers, and zero assists, but was a team-high +12 off the bench.

Interior Defense/Awareness

Nobody should have expected a lineup with Kelly Olynyk and Lauri Markkanen to be good defensively in the paint, and the Jazz certainly aren’t when those two are on the floor.

Olynyk’s hustle made for some decent plays early in the first quarter but as the game wore on Portland had success getting the Jazz to rotate and then attacking the slow-moving frontcourt.

When teams start really scouting the Jazz in the regular season that lack of speed and paint integrity will be an obvious weak point.

Jarred Vanderbilt’s finishing

For as good as Vanderbilt’s rebounding is, he really struggled to score the ball even on opportunities near the rim off offensive rebounds.

Vanderbilt is a good athlete and has smarts on the glass, but his touch near the rim is lacking.

The veteran forward is 3-8 through two games despite never shooting outside of the paint.

Wembanyama, Henderson Worth Jazz Tank

If you wondered why the Jazz were willing to trade away Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell this summer in an effort to bottom out for the draft, Victor Wembanyama and Scoot Henderson showed you why on Tuesday night.

The two players, universally expected to be the top two picks in the 2023 NBA draft put on a show as Henderson’s G League Ignite hosted Wembanyama’s Metropolitans 92 club in Las Vegas.

Wembanyama is one of the most unique prospects in NBA history standing 7-foot-2 with a silky smooth jump shot, excellent handles, and incredible timing on his blocked shots.

Here’s a quick look at a few of his highlights in his first taste of NBA competition.

This is a taste of Wembanyama’s ball handling and finishing at the rim.

And here is his range from well beyond the NBA three-point line.

His incredible wingspan makes blocks like this a very normal occurrence.

Finally, here’s the French phenom’s ability to create shots in the post.

Wembanyama finished with a staggering 37 points, four rebounds, five assists, and seven made threes.

While his unique size might make Wembanyama the defacto number one pick, whichever team ends up with the second pick and Handerson is getting a heck of a consolation prize.

Henderson finished with 28 points, nine assists, and five rebounds. Here he showed off his ability to create his own shot against the outstretched Wembanyama.

Then, he finished around Wembanyama at the rim with ease.

Here’s a look at Henderson’s plus-athleticism easily finishing on top of the rim in transition.

After Tuesday’s display, there will be a race to the bottom of the NBA standings, and whoever ends up with either of the top two picks in the draft will feel it was all worth it.


  • Utah Jazz Scoreboard

  • Utah Jazz Team Leaders

  • Utah Jazz Standings

Utah Jazz

Utah Jazz Los Angeles LA Clippers Keyonte George...

Ben Anderson

Fontecchio Shines, George Struggles In Jazz Loss To Timberwolves

The Utah Jazz fell to 1-9 on the road after a 101-90 loss to the Western Conference-leading Minnesota Timberwolves.

10 hours ago


Ben Anderson

Blog: Timberwolves Put Clamps On Shorthanded Jazz

The Minnesota Timberwolves flexed their defensive muscle with a 101-90 win over the Utah Jazz led by 32 points from Karl-Anthony Towns.

11 hours ago


Kyle Ireland

Jazz Guard Talen Horton-Tucker Hits Spin Move Against Timberwolves

Jazz guard Talen Horton-Tucker pulled off a spin move before knocking down a shot during Utah's game against the Minnesota Timberwolves.

11 hours ago


Kyle Ireland

Collin Sexton Bursts For Fast Break Bucket During Jazz-Wolves Game

Jazz guard Collin Sexton flew down the court for a fast break bucket during the second half of Utah's game against the Timberwolves.

11 hours ago


Kyle Ireland

Jazz Center Walker Kessler Dunks On, Blocks Shots By T-Wolves

Jazz center Walker Kessler followed up a slam dunk by rejecting a shot attempt by the home team during Utah's game against the Timberwolves.

12 hours ago


Kyle Ireland

Keyonte George Fakes Pass, Hits Shot Over Rudy Gobert During Jazz-Wolves Game

Jazz rookie Keyonte George faked a pass before knocking down a shot over former Jazzman Rudy Gobert during Utah's game against the Wolves.

13 hours ago

Sponsored Articles


KSL Sports

Jazz Notes Newsletter: Sign Up Now

Sign up today for the Jazz Notes newsletter. Get insider analysis, game recaps and opportunities to win tickets!

3 kids wearing real salt lake jerseys smiling...

Real Salt Lake

6 Reasons You Need to Experience a RSL Matchday

RSL Games are a great way to spend time with your family with fun activities, good food, and traditions you can only experience at the field.

High angle view of the beautiful Rose Bowl Stadium...

KSL Digital Sales

How to Prepare for the 2023 Rose Bowl

Everything you need to know to plan your 2023 Rose Bowl trip in Pasadena, California. This year, the Utes will face Penn State.


KSL Digital Sales

Notable Moments From The Utah Jazz Season… So Far

At the beginning of the season, the Utah Jazz were second to last. Now they rank in the top 10 teams in the Western Conference.

Football soccer ball on grass field on stadium...

KSL Digital Sales

Everything You Need to Know to Watch the 2022 World Cup

Find out where and when to watch the upcoming games and final match for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, including where to find live updates.


KSL Sports

KSL Sports Newsletter: Sign Up Now

Sign up today for the KSL Sports newsletter. Get the latest Utah sports news delivered to your inbox.

Jazz Reveal Identity Over Blazers, Wembanyama, Scoot Offer Hope