Jazz In Striking Distance Of Top 10 Pick With 15 Games Left

Mar 10, 2023, 1:18 PM | Updated: 1:19 pm

SALT LAKE CITY – The Utah Jazz are through week 22 of the NBA schedule, 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 and isn’t competing for a championship.

Here’s how they fared with the end of the regular season rapidly approaching.

Utah Jazz Four Factors: Week 22

Youth Development: A

Coming fresh off of his first Rookie of the Month award, Walker Kessler continues to be a mainstay in the Jazz starting lineup.

Over the last week, Kessler is averaging 12.3 points, 12.0 rebounds, and 3.7 blocks while shooting nearly 74 percent from the floor.

The highlight of the rookie’s week came in Thursday’s win over Orlando when he opened the game with three blocks in three minutes and converted a crucial and-one to secure the victory late in the fourth.

Ochai Agbaji saw increased minutes with injuries to Collin Sexton and Jordan Clarkson but struggled shooting the ball.

Agabji averaged 9.3 points per game but shot just 30 percent from the floor and 25 percent from three after a red-hot February.

The rookie did bounce back with his best performance of the week against Orlando scoring 14 points in 31 minutes on 4-8 shooting from downtown.

Simone Fontecchio had arguably his best week of the season averaging 11.0 points while shooting 40 percent from three in four appearances.

NBA Standings: B+

After losing four straight, including two key losses against the Oklahoma City Thunder to open the week, the Jazz dropped to as low as the 13th seed in the West and what would have been the eighth-worst record across the league overall.

Thursday’s win over the Magic, teamed with losses from the teams around them in the standings has the Jazz owning both the 11th-worst record in the West and the NBA as a whole heading into the final 15 games of the season.

Regardless, the Jazz are just a half-game out of the eight-worst record in the league and 1.5 games back of seventh.

With a difficult schedule on the horizon, the Jazz have positioned themselves well to add a top-10 draft pick to the roster this summer.

Veteran Performance: B

Lauri Markkenen continued his season-long brilliance over the last week averaging 27.0 points and 8.7 rebounds while shooting 49 percent from the floor and 40 percent from three.

However, the most welcome sign for the Jazz has been the breakout play from 10-day signee Kris Dunn who has found himself closing games in just his second week in Utah.

Dunn has scored in double-digits in all seven of his appearances with the Jazz this season and is doing so with remarkable efficiency.

The veteran point guard averaged 12.5 points per game over his last four outings, tied for the fourth-highest total on the roster, all while shooting 55 percent from both the floor and the three-point line.

He’s also the team’s best perimeter defender and will be a strong candidate to resign with the Jazz after his 10-day contract ends.

Veteran Damian Joines has also made a strong case to remain in Will Hardy’s rotation.

The backup big man averaged 6.0 points and 4.0 rebounds over the last four games and even shot a perfect 2-2 from the three-point line.

Fun Factor: C

Though it may have dramatically helped the Jazz in the race for more lottery balls, the team’s back-to-back losses in Oklahoma City weren’t pretty to watch.

The Thunder took a healthy lead in the first quarter of each game and never truly felt the Jazz in the rearview mirror.

Tuesday’s loss to the Dallas Mavericks was a more exciting affair as it came down to the final three minutes of the fourth quarter, and Thursday’s win over the Magic provided plenty of fireworks.

Overall it was a mixed back, hence the mediocre grade.

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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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Jazz In Striking Distance Of Top 10 Pick With 15 Games Left