Most Important Developments From Jazz 2022-23 Season
Apr 26, 2023, 2:22 PM
SALT LAKE CITY – The Utah Jazz 2022-23 season was one that will be remembered fondly due unexpectedly high number of wins, and franchise-altering moments.
Though their 37 wins are the seventh fewest since the team moved to Salt Lake City, it was far from a failed campaign.
While the memories from individual wins and losses may fade with time, there were several key developments that Jazz fans won’t soon forget.
Biggest Developments From Jazz 2022-23 Season
5. Jazz Trade Conley To Timberwolves
Through the first 55 games of the NBA season, the Jazz were seriously contending for a spot in the Western Conference Playoff race.
The Jazz sat just one game below .500, and if they’d maintained that winning percentage, they would have finished with 40 wins and the seventh seed in the Play-In tournament.
However, the team switched gears when it traded veteran Mike Conley to the Minnesota Timberwolves along with Nickeil Alexander, while sending Jarred Vanderbilt and Malik Beasley to the Los Angeles Lakers for a package that included Juan Toscano-Anderson, Damian Jones, and a top-four protected 2027 first-round pick from the Los Angeles Lakers.
Mike Conley and Nickeil Alexander-Walker to the @Timberwolves.
D'Angelo Russell, Malik Beasley, Jarred Vanderbilt to the @Lakers.
Russell Westbrook, Juan Toscano-Anderson, Damian Jones plus 2027 first to the @utahjazz.#takenote @kslsportshttps://t.co/tYwgxVDrb1
— Ben Anderson (@BensHoops) February 9, 2023
The trade both secured one of the Jazz’s most valuable long-term assets in the 2027 draft pick, and pushed them out of playoff contention, and more firmly into the lottery.
Some Jazz fans may have preferred to see the team take a more aggressive approach to making the postseason in 2023, but the draft assets and the financial flexibility gained from moving Conley will have a more lasting impact.
4. Rookies Hit
It’s difficult to build a strong future without young talent, and the Jazz appeared to land two pieces with long-term upside within the organization.
Walker Kessler will be the Jazz’s starting center for the foreseeable future, and with further development on the offensive end, could be one of the league’s more formidable big men.
Walker Kessler is the first rookie in @utahjazz history to have a 20-point, 20-rebound game. #takenote | @kslsports pic.twitter.com/nOv6nCyE9X
— Ben Anderson (@BensHoops) January 16, 2023
Ochai Agbaji’s production took longer to develop, but his role as a sharp-shooting, mega-athletic perimeter defender could be just as important as Kessler’s if he continues to build on the final 20 games of his rookie season.
Statistically speaking, it’s unlikely that either Kessler or Agbaji will develop into All-Stars. However, they both look like bona fide NBA players, and those are significant additions in the first year of the Jazz’s rebuild.
3. Hardy Develops Culture
The top teams in the NBA over long periods traditionally have strong cultures. That allows organizations to overcome the natural adversity that plagues every professional franchise.
Jerry Sloan’s culture allowed the Jazz to survive the departures of Karl Malone and John Stockton, while Quin Snyder’s culture allowed the Jazz to grow after the loss of Gordon Hayward.
What #UtahJazz fan doesn't love this??? Will Hardy's opening remarks after a 28 point loss to the #Bucks on Friday night. His laugh is contagious too. lol#TakeNote l @KSLSports l #NBA pic.twitter.com/Jz6r3WNm4P
— Sam Farnsworth (@Samsworth_KSL) March 25, 2023
Moving on from Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell was going to be a tough task for a first-year coach, and had the Jazz gotten it wrong, the organization could have found itself in a very deep hole.
Instead, Will Hardy’s youth, humility, and basketball acumen propelled the Jazz in an upward direction, and laid the foundation for positive growth.
Hardy is still in the honeymoon period, and hope is the easiest product to sell in the NBA. But looking at recent rebuilds across the NBA, a bad coaching hire is a recipe for disaster, and the Jazz seem to have avoided that pitfall.
2. Jazz Land Top-10 Lottery Odds
While it’s true the Jazz are incredibly well stocked with future draft assets, including a myriad of unprotected picks from the Minnesota Timberwolves and Cleveland Cavaliers, there’s no guarantee any of those picks will land in the lottery, much less the top 10.
Due to their lack of draft capital, don’t expect either the Timberwolves or Cavaliers to bottom out at any point soon, and the true value of the 2027 Lakers pick is murky at best.
The @utahjazz still don't know where their lottery pick will land.
But, they can be confident that this draft offers the right players to fill their needs. #TakeNote https://t.co/qRbQi99F8x
— KSL Sports (@kslsports) April 20, 2023
That means that the lottery pick the Jazz own this season has a chance to be one of their highest for the foreseeable future and one of the most important pieces in their rebuild.
The 2023 draft isn’t ultra-deep, but there will be high-impact players available in the late lottery if the Jazz don’t move up in the lottery.
A good draft selection could accelerate the Jazz rebuild even faster, while a whiff would be a setback to the positive momentum. The team has had tremendous luck over the last 12 months in its gambles, can they maintain it through draft night?
1. Markkanen’s Accent
No team in NBA history has won at a high level without top-tier talent, and it’s the hardest asset to acquire in the NBA.
After giving up both Mitchell and Gobert, there was no guarantee as to when the Jazz would find another All-Star to grace the roster.
However, Lauri Markkanen quickly put that question to bed having one of the best individual seasons in franchise history and quickly becoming the face of the franchise going forward.
Lauri Markkanen is the first @utahjazz player to take home the NBA's Most Improved Player award.
Congrats Finnisher!!!#TakeNote https://t.co/MUBNhKGsN7
— KSL Sports (@kslsports) April 24, 2023
Outside of the minute odds that the Jazz land a superstar in the 2023 draft, nothing will be more impactful on the team’s future than Markkanen’s incredible accent.
There is still room for growth in the Finnish forward’s game, but even if he’s near his ceiling, he’s proven to be one of the league’s most consistent and efficient scorers, even as the top name on the opposing scouting report.
If Markkanen can maintain, or build on his 2022-23 season in Utah, the Jazz will be a formidable team in the West for years to come.
Download the new & improved KSL Sports app from Utah’s sports leader. You can stream live radio, video and stay up to date on all of your favorite teams.
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.
Utah Jazz Scoreboard
Utah Jazz Team Leaders
Utah Jazz Standings