Career-Highs Abound For Jazz Youngsters As Season Wanes

Mar 31, 2023, 12:40 PM

SALT LAKE CITY – The Utah Jazz are through week 25 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’ve fared with just six games left in the regular season.

Utah Jazz Four Factors Week 25

Youth Development: A

It was a rookie-heavy week for the Jazz who were down several veterans due to injury, and the first-year players once again lived up to the challenge.

After a difficult seven point, eight rebound outing against Brook Lopez and the Milwaukee Bucks on Friday, Walker Kessler bounced back with a new career-high 31 points the next night in Sacramento.

Over his last four outings, Kessler averaged 16.3 points, 9.3 rebounds, and 3.0 blocks while shooting 72 percent from the field. The first-year Jazzman also reached 170 total blocks for the season moving him into 16th among rookies all-time in NBA history.

Ochai Agbaji struggled with his shot over the last week, but averaged 11.3 points, 2.5 rebounds, and 2.5 assists in four contests, highlighted by a 20 point outing against the Kings on Saturday.

The rookie wing seems to be feeling the effects of extended minutes over the second half of the season, but has sprinkled in enough promising moments to ease any concerns.

Simone Fontecchio set a career-high in Friday’s loss to the Bucks scoring 26 points on 9-16 shooting, but a toe injury limited his production to just nine points, three rebounds, and two assists total in his last two outings.

NBA Standings: A-

The Jazz went 1-3 over the last week, snapping a four-game losing streak on Wednesday night in San Antonio.

The team remains in 12th place in the West, a half-game worse than the suddenly miserable Dallas Mavericks, and 1.5 games back of the Oklahoma City Thunder for the 10th seed.

Leaguewide, the Jazz are tied with the Chicago Bulls for the ninth-worst record in the NBA with six games left to play.

Projection models don’t like the Jazz chances of making the playoffs, and expect the Jazz to finish behind the Mavericks, Thunder, and bulls in the final standings by a full two games, giving them the ninth-best odds to win the draft lottery.

Each of their next six remaining opponents is either firmly in the playoffs or in the hunt for a spot in the play-in tournament, giving the Jazz the fourth-most difficult remaining schedule in the NBA.

Veteran Performance: C

It’s difficult to grade the Jazz veterans over the last week as Lauri Markkanen, Collin Sexton, and Jordan Clarkson combined to play just one game.

But while the Jazz have cleared minutes for young players to develop over the final few weeks of the season, some of the younger veterans have found opportunities to thrive.

Talen Horton-Tucker scored a career-high 41 points in Wednesday’s win over the Spurs shooting an excellent 15-25 from the floor and 6-11 from three.

In his prior three games, Horton-Tucker had shooting just 33 percent from the floor, but was averaging 6.7 assists and 5.0 rebounds out of the backcourt.

He remains one of the most perplexing players in the NBA, but the intrigue far outweighs the negatives.

Fun Factor: B

Friday’s loss to Milwaukee might have been the least interesting game of the season, while Saturday’s nailbiter against the Kings provided a peek at the future thanks to Kessler’s career high.

It’s difficult to know what to make of Horton-Tucker’s career-high against the Spurs, but it was fun to watch after Monday’s meh showing at home against the Phoenix Suns.

Overall, the  Jazz have balanced their poor outings with equally entertaining performances, earning passing grades overall in the week 25 four factors.

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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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Career-Highs Abound For Jazz Youngsters As Season Wanes