Mike Smith: Walker Kessler Is ‘The Future’ Of The Utah Jazz

Nov 10, 2022, 2:25 PM
Utah Jazz rookie center Walker Kessler (Photo by Arturo Holmes/Getty Images)
(Photo by Arturo Holmes/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY – Longtime NBA veteran and current game night television host Mike Smith called rookie Walker Kessler “the future” of the Utah Jazz.

In an interview with Hans Olsen and Scott Garrard on 97.5 The KSL Sports Zone, Smith praised Kessler for his early performance with the Jazz.

You can listen to Smith’s full interview in the player below.

“It’s early, and he’s raw, and 20 (years old)” Smith said, “but I’m just telling you right now, in three years. this kid’s a star.”

Kessler has been a mainstay in the Jazz rotation early in the season despite his young age. The rookie is averaging 6.1 points, 5.0 rebounds, and 1.7 blocks while shooting 74 percent from the floor in under 15 minutes per game.

Kessler’s 1.7 blocks per game lead all rookies and are second among all NBA players in a reserve role.

Smith said he took note of Kessler after watching the Auburn product workout at Vivint Arena this season.

“There’s a big 6-foot-10 guy there just pushing him around, beating him up, and it’s full speed,” Smith said. “And I’m watching his skills, his footwork, his right hand hook, his left hand hook, his pivot, his maneuvers. This guy’s born to play the position.”

Kessler has had no soft landing in the NBA. In his first 10 NBA games the rookie has faced MVP Nikola Jokic, Rudy Gobert, Jonas Valanciuas, and Anthony Davis, among others. So far, the Georgia native has held his own.

His best performance came against the Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday night in front of his hometown when he recorded 12 points on 6-6 shooting, adding six rebounds, and three blocks in 16 minutes.

Kessler’s play has been so impressive, Smith said he thinks he could have Jazz fans forgetting about the stellar play from Rudy Gobert.

“I’m here to tell you that in three years, you won’t remember the center for the Jazz before him,” Smith said, “because he’ll be that good on both ends of the floor.”

Kessler Before Joining The Jazz

Kessler was one of the top recruits in the country coming out of high school and committed to the University of North Carolina in the summer of 2020. After seeing limited minutes with the Tar Heels as a freshman, the center transferred to Auburn and quickly blossomed in Bruce Pearl’s system.

Kessler averaged 11.4 points, 8.4 rebounds, and a staggering 4.6 blocks as a sophomore while shooting 60 percent from the floor in just 25 minutes per game.

The big man was selected with the 22nd pick of June’s NBA Draft and was one of five players sent to the Jazz from the Minnesota Timberwolves in exchange for Gobert.

In addition to Kessler, the Jazz acquired Malik Beasley, Patrick Beverley, Jarred Vanderbilt, Leandro Balmaro, four future first-round picks, and a first-round pick swap.

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Mike Smith: Walker Kessler Is ‘The Future’ Of The Utah Jazz