Jazz Grades After The Trade Deadline
SALT LAKE CITY – The Utah Jazz are through week 16 of the NBA season so it’s time to examine how they’ve fared in the four factors of a successful year.
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 how they fared through the NBA trade deadline.
Utah Jazz Four Factors: Week 16
Youth Development: B+
Walker Kessler had two strong performances over the last week averaging 14.5 points, 9.0 rebounds, and 3.0 blocks while shooting 63 percent from the floor.
The major question for Kessler to close the season is how he will perform now that Mike Conley has been traded.
Kessler had developed a strong chemistry with Conley in the pick-and-roll and will have to adjust to finding his offense without a true pass-first point guard on the floor.
An understandably emotional Walker Kessler after the Mike Conley trade.#TakeNote | @utahjazz pic.twitter.com/U2B90FSNt5
— KSL Sports (@kslsports) February 9, 2023
On the flip side, the Jazz cleared significant minutes for rookie Ochai Agbaji to develop after sending Malik Beasley to the Lakers.
Agbaji struggled over the last two games scoring a total of three points on 1-7 shooting but already saw his minutes climb in the team’s loss to the Dallas Mavericks.
The rookie will be tested with real NBA minutes over the final 26 games of the season and will have to prove he’s capable of producing more consistently in the Jazz rotation.
NBA Standings: B
It seemed inevitable that at some point, the Jazz would either go all in on a playoff chase or make moves to fall back in the standings.
After sending out three of their top seven rotation players on Wednesday, it’s clear the Jazz are comfortable improving their lottery odds by dropping in the standings.
A look at the updated NBA standings 👀
📲 https://t.co/6FlAliik3X pic.twitter.com/XdMtGfzuYf
— NBA (@NBA) February 10, 2023
The Jazz currently sit in the 11th seed in the West, but “trail” the Los Angeles Lakers by only 2.0 games for what would be the sixth-worst record in the NBA.
If the Jazz were to make up that ground in the loss column, they would have a 34.8 percent chance of drafting in the top four and a 65.2 chance of drafting 6-10.
Getting as many meaningful close-game experiences as the Jazz have already this season while staying within striking distance of a high lottery pick was a difficult balance to strike, but it looks like they have a good chance of pulling it off.
Veteran Performance: B
While Lauri Markkanen’s season has been an unquestionable A+, there’s now a clearer picture of what exactly Mike Conley, Jarred Vanderbilt, Malik Beasley, and Nickeil Alexander-Walker provided the team.
Ultimately, the Jazz were able to turn those four veterans into a lightly protected 2027 first-round pick from the Lakers, two mid to low-level rotations players in Juan Toscano-Anderson and Damian Jones, and the expiring contract of Russell Westbrook.
After Wednesday's blockbuster trade, members of the @utahjazz reacted to the loss of Mike Conley, and discussed what he meant to the team.
"[He’s] the best guy around.”#TakeNote https://t.co/3Xh6jgiQg9
— KSL Sports (@kslsports) February 9, 2023
Getting out of the $24 million owed to Conley next season was a savvy move from a team on the verge of a more serious rebuild, regardless of how painful it was for the team’s locker room.
Then, adding another high-value draft pick in return for Beasley and Vanderbilt further cements the strength of the Rudy Gobert trade.
There’s a world where the Jazz may have gotten more value by breaking up the players and trading them off individually, but the trade deadline didn’t allow for that patience.
It was a good trade for the Jazz — it might not have been a great one, but there is definite value.
Fun Factor: D
If the last two games are any indicator, Jazz fans may want to prepare themselves for a difficult close to the season.
The Jazz lost by an average of 19 points in their last two outings and have lost three straight overall with pretty dismal performances.
Fans were treated to 56 mostly competitive games this year but may have to settle with a difficult-to-watch final 26-game stretch.
The highlights will be the development of the young players, but there will be growing pains.
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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