Agbaji Showing Promise As Jazz Season Develops

Jan 13, 2023, 1:22 PM

SALT LAKE CITY – The Utah Jazz are through week 13 of the NBA season so it’s time to examine how they’ve fared in 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 isn’t quite rebuilding but isn’t competing for a championship.

Here’s out they’ve performed through the first 13 weeks of the season.

Youth Development: A-

For the first time this season, Walker Kessler had some competition from a fellow Jazz rookie for the most recognition over the last week.

Ochai Agbaji had by far his best stretch of the season after being inserted into the regular rotation last week against the Houston Rockets.

Over his last three games, Agbaji’s stats have varied widely, scoring a career-high 19 points on a perfect 7-7 shooting against the Chicago Bulls 7-7 shooting against the Chicago Bulls, before a scoreless outing in Sunday’s loss to the Memphis Grizzlies.

But beyond his scoring, Agbaji found a way to impact the games in his last two outings notching seven combined rebounds and recording his first multi-assist game.

Now that opposing teams recognize that can knock down the corner three-point shot with some regularity he’ll face different defensive pressure, and it’s on him to figure out how to continue to impact the game offensively.

Additionally, he still makes some defensive lapses that are rarely seen at the NBA level.

However, Agabji’s rookie season had mostly been a question mark prior to the last four games, but he’s shown significant signs of growth since the New Year.

That’s a promising development for the former lottery pick who will have to continue to earn his keep in the NBA.

While Agabji stole the headlines, Kessler showed two of his better offensive moves over the last week.

The Jazz want the rookie big man to develop his nastiness on the floor, and he showed that in Sunday’s loss to the Grizzlies.

NBA Standings: C

It was a good week for Jazz fans wanting to see the team’s lottery odds improve. The team went just 1-2 in their last three games, and have gone 2-7 in their last nine.

The Jazz even found themselves out of the playoff picture entirely on Sunday after a loss to the Grizzlies teamed with wins from the Los Angeles Lakers and Minnesota Timberwolves.

But, after losses from Minnesota and LA in their last outings, combined with five consecutive losses from the Portland Trail Blazers, the Jazz find themselves in the ninth-seed in the West.

As it stands, the Jazz are 1.5 games behind the sixth-seeded Los Angeles Clippers, and one game ahead of the 13th-seeded Oklahoma City Thunder.

How the Jazz fare over the next 12 games, 10 of which will be played at home will go a long way towards determining where they finish at the end of the season.

Veteran Performance: B+

The Jazz continued to get top-tier performances from Lauri Markkanen and Jordan Clarkson who have carried the team for most of the season.

Markkanen has scored in double-digits in every game for the Jazz this season, and hasn’t failed to break the 20-point mark in 12 straight outings upping his season average to stellar 24.5 points per game.

On his current trajectory, Markkanen appears set to earn his first All-Star nod, and his improving those odds each week.

Similarly, Clarkson has shot 50 percent or better from the floor in six of the last seven games, one of the best stretches of his career.

Kelly Olynyk reinjured his ankle in Sunday’s loss and is expected to miss at least a week, while Malik Beasley’s cold three-point shooting has continued.

The guard is shooting just 3-24 in his last three outings.

Fun Factor: A

The Jazz had three exciting games over the last week including single-digit losses to the Bulls and Grizzlies before Tuesday’s thrilling comeback against the Cavaliers.

Markkanen and Clarkson provide terrific moments each night the Jazz take the floor while Agabaji’s recent developments have added a new storyline worth tracking.

While the Jazz are just 2-11 in their 13 road games, 10 of the next 12 will be played at Vivint Arena where the team is 13-7.

The Jazz play hard each night which results in very few blowouts, but don’t have the depth needed to crush their opponents, that means fans get a good game each night they tune in.

Ben Anderson is the KSL Sports insider for the Utah Jazz and the co-host of Jake and Ben from 10-12p with Jake Scott on 97.5 The KSL Sports Zone. Find Ben on Twitter at @BensHoops or on Instagram @BensHoops.

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Agbaji Showing Promise As Jazz Season Develops