UTAH JAZZ

Kessler Flashes Jump Shot, But Jazz Like His Low Post Aggression

Jan 12, 2023, 2:59 PM | Updated: Jan 13, 2023, 9:44 am

SALT LAKE CITY – Walker Kessler turned some heads when he comfortably knocked down a shot-clock-beating 18-foot jump shot in the Utah Jazz win over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Tuesday.

Of Kessler’s 172 field goal attempts this season, only 10 have come outside of five feet. And, for the most part, they’ve been unsuccessful.

Before Tuesday’s game the Jazz rookie was just 2-9 from beyond five feet, including a slightly concerning 2-8 from 5-9 feet.

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If Kessler hopes to be a more respected offensive player in the NBA, his ability to knock down a jump shot outside of the restricted area will have to improve. That’s why his baseline jumper against Cleveland was a breath of fresh air for fans who have tracked his development.

Unlike longtime Jazz center Rudy Gobert whose scoring game barely developed beyond dunking the ball, Kessler has a background as a jump shooter.

The Auburn product talked about it in an interview with Hans Olsen and Scott Garrard on 97.5 The KSL Sports Zone on Thursday.

“Coming out of high school, I was an offensive player,” Kessler admitted. “I didn’t care about defense, I was a stretch big.”

That aspect of Kessler’s game never materialized in college as he knocked down just 11 of his 54 three-point attempts at North Carolin and Auburn before entering the NBA Draft.

This season Kessler has yet to attempt a three-pointer, but that doesn’t mean it’s out of the cards.

“I see Walker’s game being able to build out in the future,” Jazz coach Will Hardy said. “That situation was such a short clock and he ends up catching the ball — of course, you’ve got a green light.”

Though Jazz fans may want to see more jump shots from the promising rookie, Hardy said there’s a reason the team has focused on other things.

“I don’t want him to get distracted by adding too much to his game right now and lose focus on the things that he’s really still trying to shore up,” the Jazz coach said. “His pick and roll defense, protecting the rim, being a great screener because right now that’s how you can help us win these games, and ultimately, that’s going to be the backbone that his games built on.”

Kessler Shows Physicality Against Grizzlies

While Kessler’s jump shot drew the attention of many Jazz fans, it was a more subtle finish he had against Memphis Grizzlies last Sunday that had the organization more excited.

Early in the second quarter Kessler caught the ball in a pick and roll with Nickeil Alexander-Walker, turned his shoulder into Grizzlies big man Jaren Jackson Jr. to create space before finishing the easy hook shot.

“That play offensively really stood out to a lot of people on our staff like, ‘Wow, that’s real growth,'” Hardy said. “Because that’s not something that we’ve seen him do, but it’s also a moment for Walker to feel good like ‘Oh, I can be physical also. I don’t just have to be the defensive player that guys are constantly crashing into.'”

Kessler has already become one of the league’s elite shot blockers, averaging 1.9 rejections per game. But, unlike some of the league’s most threatening defenders, Kessler has allowed his gentlemanly persona off the floor to follow him onto the court, limiting his physical nature.

The next step for the Jazz rookie is to embrace that nastiness on both sides of the ball.

“He’s a great guy,” Hardy said, “and that doesn’t mean that you can’t have a little bit of a different persona when you play the game.”

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