UTAH JAZZ

Jazz Have Strong Week Despite Veteran Absences

Dec 9, 2022, 2:45 PM

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Jordan Clarkson #00 of the Utah Jazz reacts after scoring during overtime at the Smoothie King Center on October 23, 2022 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)

(Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY – The Utah Jazz are through week seven of the NBA season so it’s time for another check-up on the four factors of a successful season.

The four factors — youth development, lottery standings, veteran performance, and fun factor — were laid out before the season as a grading system for a team that wasn’t quite rebuilding but wasn’t competing for a championship.

Here’s out they fared over the last week.

Utah Jazz Four Factors: Week Seven

Youth Development: A-

Walker Kessler once again ruled the day among Jazz youngsters turning in the best week of his young NBA career.

Over the last week, Kessler posted two double-doubles, made his first start, and averaged 12.7 points, 10.3 rebounds, and 3.3 blocks in 22 minutes per game while shooting 94 percent from the floor and 75 percent from the free throw line.

Simone Fontecchio also had the best appearance of his NBA career in Wednesday’s wild win over the Golden State Warriors. The Italian rookie scored a career-high 18 points including the game winning-dunk in the final second of regulation.

On the flip side, Talen Horton-Tucker’s difficult stretch carried over from the previous week, culminating in his second DNP-CD in four games on Wednesday.

Lottery Standings: B-

The Jazz crawled out of the no man’s land that is the NBA play-in tournament, and sit in the sixth seed in the West.

With a 2-1 record, the Jazz moved up one spot from the seventh seed and beat both the Indiana Pacers and the Warriors, two playoff hopefuls in the process.

The Jazz have a chance to improve these standings over the next week with four games before their week eight grades. Three of the Jazz’s four games this week will be played at home, and all four come against Western Conference Playoff hopefuls.

As of Friday, the Jazz are 0.5 games ahead of the seventh-seeded Mavericks, but only 1.0 games back of the fourth-seeded Denver Nuggets.

Veteran Performance: C+

It was one of the rougher weeks for Jazz veterans so far this season and Mike Conley missed all three of the team’s games, Lauri Markkanen missed one, and both Jordan Clarkson and Collin Sexton saw early exits of their own.

Markkanen suffered an illness against the Warriors but was stellar in his two outings prior.

The Finnish forward averaged 22.5 points, 9.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists, and 2.0 steals while shooting 48 percent from the floor and 60 percent from the three-point line.

But while his numbers were great, he could have had a much bigger impact in the team’s loss to the Portland Trail Blazers, especially in the fourth quarter.

Clarkson added 19.3 points and 5.0 assists, but was ejected from Wednesday’s win over the Warriors, and fouled out in the Jazz loss to Portland.

Sexton has remained efficient on the offensive end averaging 18.0 points on 50 percent shooting from the floor and 43 percent shooting from three, but his defense continues to need work. He will also miss most of the week and potentially more with a hamstring injury suffered against Golden State.

Nickeil Alexander-Walker had his best week as a Jazzman averaging 5.5 points, 3.5 rebounds, and 3.0 assists, and made several huge plays down the stretch in the Jazz victory over the Warriors.

With Conley on a minutes restriction and Sexton out this next week, he should get ample opportunity to prove he belongs in the NBA.

Fun Factor: A

Minus Saturday’s last-minute collapse against the Trail Blazers, the Jazz turned in a series of entertaining games including a blowout against the Pacers and the most exciting game of the season against Golden State.

Conley is expected to return this week which will help the Jazz offense fix its execution issues, and Markkanen shouldn’t miss extended time.

The continued development of Walker Kessler, Rudy Gobert’s return to Utah, and two matchups with Zion Williams should make for another exciting week of Jazz basketball on the horizon.

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Jazz Have Strong Week Despite Veteran Absences