Jazz Climb In Standings Despite Quiet Week
SALT LAKE CITY – The Utah Jazz are through week 23 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 less than a month left in the regular season.
Utah Jazz Four Factors Week 23
Youth Development: A
It was a rare quiet week for the Jazz who’ve played only two games since last Saturday, but the rookies continue to show glimpses of their bright future.
Walker Kessler averaged a 12.0 point, 12.5 rebound double-double posting a strong 17 point, 16 rebound, three block performance in a win over the Charlotte Hornets before a more modest seven point, nine rebound outing in the Jazz’s loss to Miami.
Kris Dunn giving Walker Kessler tips on defensive footwork on the perimeter.
On the previous play, Walk erased Dunn with a huge block.
On the next play, Dunn crossed Kessler into oblivion. pic.twitter.com/USg6ZhubRs
— Ben Anderson (@BensHoops) March 17, 2023
Ochai Agbaji had two solid outings for the Jazz averaging 12.0 points and 3.5 rebounds while continuing his prolific three-point shoot efforts.
Over his last 10 games, Agbaji is hoisting 6.9 threes per game, a remarkably high number for a rookie, despite shooting just 31 percent on his attempts.
There is little doubt that the first-year Jazzman can shoot, so continuing to look for those shots, even during a cold streak isn’t a bad sign.
Similarly, rookie Simone Fontecchio is playing his best basketball of the season scoring a career-high 23 points in Miami.
The Italian is shooting a much-improved 42 percent from three over his last six games upping his value for the team heading into the offseason.
NBA Standings: C+
Though the Jazz split their two games over the last week, they actually climbed a spot in the Western Conference rankings from 11th place to 10th.
The Jazz are tied with the New Orleans Pelicans in the West, but after winning the season series 3-0, would have the tiebreaker in the playoff rankings.
The Nuggets clinch their spot in the #NBAPlayoffs.
Thursday night standings are here 👀
📲 https://t.co/02ml5YIBRq pic.twitter.com/BdPQVkHFDM
— NBA (@NBA) March 17, 2023
Both the Los Angeles Lakers and the Oklahoma City Thunder sit a half-game ahead of the Jazz in the West and have significantly easier schedules to close the season.
The Jazz’s upcoming four-game home stand against the Boston Celtics, Sacramento Kings, Portland Trail Blazers, and Milwaukee Bucks will go a long way toward determining whether they make the playoffs, or improve their standings in the lottery.
If the regular season were to end today, the Jazz would miss the playoffs and own the 11th pick in the draft, the worst of both worlds.
Veteran Development: A-
Lauri Markkanen had perhaps his most interesting two-game stretch of the season over the last week.
The All-Star shot a miserable 3-22 against the Hornets in a Jazz win but bounced back with a dominant 38-point performance in a loss in Miami where he proved even the best defenses in the world have no answer for him.
It was the type of bounce-back performance from Markkanen that showed he’s taken the next step in his development from a budding young player to an unflappable scorer.
With Jordan Clarkson and Collin Sexton each missing the last two weeks Talen Horton-Tucker continued to get a larger role in the starting lineup and had mixed results.
The 22-year-old had arguably the best game of his career scoring 38 points, handing out 10 assists, and grabbing eight rebounds against Charlotte, before a difficult nine point, eight assist, six rebounding outing in Miami.
Horton-Tucker’s prolific statistical outings remain intriguing, even if he likely can’t be the starting point guard on a top playoff team.
It will be worth tracking if his recent success changes how the Jazz approach Clarkson’s free agency this summer.
Fun Factor: B+
Even with Markkanen’s rough night in Charlotte, the game was easy to watch thanks to the play from Horton-Tucker and Kessler.
In Miami, it was Markkanen, Agbaji, and Fontecchio who stole the show as the game came down the wire.
The Jazz have the most difficult schedule remaining in the NBA which should provide plenty of intriguing games over the final three weeks of the season.
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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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