UTAH JAZZ

Markkanen, Conley Get High Weekly Grades In Jazz Return

Dec 16, 2022, 1:27 PM

Mike-Conley-Utah-Jazz...

Mike Conley #11 of the Utah Jazz reacts during the second half against the Houston Rockets at Toyota Center on October 24, 2022 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)

(Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY – The Utah Jazz are through week eight 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, NBA 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 Eight

Youth Development: A-

As the identity of the team continues to develop, the opportunity for young players to see the floor has somewhat dwindled.

Will Hardy has largely trimmed his rotation to nine players in the absence of Collin Sexton, providing less opportunity for the Jazz youngsters to see the floor.

Walker Kessler is a firm part of the Jazz rotation, and played arguably the best basketball of his career in Thursday night’s win over the New Orleans Pelicans.

Despite a rough first three quarters, Kessler played all but 13 seconds of the fourth quarter and overtime and produced nine points, seven rebounds, and two blocks, as the Jazz outscored New Orleans by 10 with him on the floor.

Closing close games against the top teams in the NBA is exactly the type of development the Jazz have been pushing for over the first eight weeks of the season and it paid off against New Orleans.

Ochai Agbaji also got a bite at the apple this past week with a series of Jazz injuries, including 12 minutes in the Jazz loss to Minnesota and 20 minutes in the loss to Denver.

Most importantly, Agbaji shot 3-6 from downtown over the two-game stretch, though the rest of his game has a ways to go.

But, if he can become a knockdown shooter in the NBA, his odds of sticking grow dramatically.

On the flip side, Simone Fontecchio missed all of the past week with an ankle sprain, and Talen Horton-Tucker has lost his spot in the guard rotation to veteran Nickeil Alexander-Walker.

NBA Standings: C

No longer measuring just the Jazz lottery standings, week eight marks the first time we take a full gander and the team’s standing in the Western Conference overall.

The Jazz clearly aren’t tanking, so judging them based on that measurement alone would be foolish.

The team will be best served now either making the playoffs and avoiding the play-in tournament, or dramatically improving their draft odds. Getting stuck in the middle is the only way to earn a failing grade.

Unfortunately for the Jazz they did play .500 basketball over the last week, and sit in the seventh spot in West through eight weeks.

They need to move up or down, because staying in the middle offers the least amount of long term value.

Veteran Performance: A

It’s never been more clear how important Mike Conley and Lauri Markkanen are to the Jazz roster.

With both players on the floor this season the Jazz are 13-6, when either player misses a game, the Jazz are 4-8

That was plainly clear as the Jazz started the week 0-2 with losses to Portland and Minnesota, but bounced back with consecutive wins over the top-ranked Pelicans with Markkanen and Conley back in the starting lineup.

As previously mentioned, Alexander-Walker has also stepped up his game and has provided the Jazz with much-needed playmaking and defense off the bench as Conley’s primary backup.

Collin Sexton missed the entire week with his strained hamstring but is reportedly progressing as expected.

Overall, a strong week for the Jazz veterans, capped off by Jordan Clarkson’s season-best 39-point outing against New Orleans.

Fun Factor: B+

The Jazz got off to a bit of a slow start in Rudy Gobert’s return when it came to enjoyability, but bounced back with a surprisingly entertaining performance against the Denver Nuggets from a very shorthanded roster.

Tuesday’s 21 points victory over the Pelicans was perhaps the Jazz’s most complete game of the season, and Thursday’s overtime nailbiter was as good as regular season basketball gets.

The Jazz have embraced their chaotic play this year, and it’s made for consistently enjoyable basketball.

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Markkanen, Conley Get High Weekly Grades In Jazz Return