Kessler, Agbaji Have Rare Down Week For Jazz

Jan 27, 2023, 1:23 PM | Updated: 1:26 pm

SALT LAKE CITY – The Utah Jazz are through week 14 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 fared through the first 14 weeks of the year.

Utah Jazz Four Factors: Week 14

Youth Development: B+

As he has each of the first 13 weeks of the season, Walker Kessler remains the key talking point for the Jazz in youth development.

The standout center climbed to number three in the latest rookie rankings by the NBA and has established himself as the team’s starting center for the foreseeable future. At practice Friday, Will Hardy said Kessler was likely to stay in the starting lineup, despite the injured Kelly Olynyk nearing his return.

That alone has made this season a success in regard to youth development. With that said, Kessler has not had his strongest week as a Jazzman.

The center averaged 7.0 points and 6.7 rebounds over the last three games and blocked a total of two shots, one of his least productive stretches of the season.

The Jazz’s other key rookie, Ochai Agbaji, also had a down week, failing to create any meaningful statistical production in two of the last three games, bookending an eight point, four rebound performance in a blowout win over the Hornets.

As the team enters the true dog days of the NBA season, it’s no surprise the first-year players would struggle with the seemingly endlessly long schedule leading up to the All-Star break. But with just one game over a six-day stretch, both should have ample rest to bounce back next week.

NBA Standings: C

Once again, the Jazz find themselves in no man’s land in the NBA standings, sitting at 10th in the West, not good enough to automatically qualify for the playoffs, and not bad enough to have a shot at a good lottery pick.

The good news is they sit just two games back of the fourth seed and home-court advantage in the playoffs, and one game ahead of the 13th seed and a shot at a top 10 lottery pick.

Where they finish this season will determine their final grade, but 10th is arguably the worst spot they could land in.

We’ll get a clearer picture of the Jazz’s intentions after the February 9 trade deadline.

Veteran Performance: B+

Lauri Markkanen continues his high-level play, having become just the fourth player in Jazz history to score 20 or more points in 17 consecutive games.

Despite a quiet 24 point, four-rebound outing in a blowout loss to the Portland Trail Blazers, Markkanen still gives the Jazz a chance to win every game he suits up.

Jordan Clarkson’s scoring is up to 21.7 points per game over the last week, but he’s had more turnovers than assists, and his plus-minus is a team-worst -11.7.

Collin Sexton continues to find his rhythm has he returns from injury averaging 15.7 points while shooting a super-efficient 58 percent from the floor and 71 percent from the three-point line.

Both Malik Beasley and Mike Conley are averaging 10.3 points per game in their last three outings and shooting over 40 percent from three, potentially helping their trade value leading up to the deadline.

Jarred Vanderbilt is also shooting the ball well having knocked down 3-7 threes over the last three outings.

Overall, the Jazz’s vets are performing well, which has led to a 5-3 record in their last eight games.

Fun Factor: C

Though the Jazz have won five of their last eight games, they’re just 1-2 in their last three, and every game has been decided by double-digits.

The team’s lone win over the Charlotte Hornets was notable mostly due to how terrible their opponent played, shooting a dismal 2-16 from the three-point line and trailing by 20 points for most of the second half.

Otherwise, the Jazz defense was tough to watch against Kyrie Irving and the Brooklyn Nets to start the week and only got worse as Damian Lillard scored 60 points for the Trail Blazers on Wednesday.

The Jazz will spend the next week at Vivint Arena with games against the Dallas Mavericks and Toronto Raptors.

Ben Anderson is the Utah Jazz insider for KSL Sports 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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Kessler, Agbaji Have Rare Down Week For Jazz