Best Utah Jazz Rookie Seasons Of All Time

Mar 29, 2024, 1:34 PM | Updated: 1:34 pm

Utah Jazz rookie guard Donovan Mitchell (45) celebrates with fans as he leaves the court following ...

Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell (45) celebrates with fans as he leaves the court following the Jazz's 96-91 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game 6 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series Friday, April 27, 2018, in Salt Lake City. The Jazz won the series. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

(AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

SALT LAKE CITY – The rookies are the talk of the town for the Utah Jazz right now after the team decided to shoot for lottery odds instead of a play-in appearance.

This inspired us to look back at the best rookie seasons from Jazz players since the franchise moved back in 1979.

Keyonte George – 2024

The 16th overall pick in the 2023 NBA Draft gave Jazz fans hope in an otherwise disappointing season.

Through his first 66 games,  the Baylor product is averaging 12.8 points and 4.5 assists on 39.3% from the floor and 33.9% from deep.

George’s rookie season was filled with ups and downs but his potential is clear every time he takes the hardwood.

In a game against the Golden State Warriors on February 15, George poured in 33 points with a rookie-record nine threes made.

George scored at least 20 points in nine games and recorded at least 7 assists in 12 games.

The rookie guard proved his worth very early in the season and ended up starting in over half of his games played in year one.

Walker Kessler – 2023

We only have to go back one more year to find another great Utah Jazz rookie season.

After being traded to Utah on draft night, Kessler came in and was immediately one of the best rim protectors in the NBA.

The center out of Auburn averaged 9.2 points, 8.4 rebounds, and 2.3 blocks in 74 games.

Kessler’s 173 blocks in 2023 were good for fourth in the NBA. Kessler made the All-Rookie first team and was third in Rookie of the Year voting.

Donovan Mitchell – 2018

In 2018, the Utah Jazz hit the jackpot by bringing in Donovan Mitchell.

Not only was Mitchell an instant-impact rookie, but it led to regular season and playoff success.

In his rookie campaign, Mitchell averaged 20.5 points, 3.7 assists, and 1.5 steals on 43.7% shooting. Mitchell finished second in Rookie of the Year voting.

In the 2017-2018 season, Utah finished fifth in the West with a record of 48-34. In the first round of the playoffs against OKC, Mitchell went off.

The Louisville guard averaged 28.5 points and 7.2 rebounds as the Jazz shocked the Thunder by winning in six.

Trey Burke – 2014

Burke is one of three Jazz point guards to make this list.

In 2014, Burke finished third in Rookie of the Year voting and averaged 12.8 points and 5.7 assists on 38% from the field and 33% from three.

The Michigan Wolverine didnt last long in SLC. His averages slowly went down over the next two seasons before moving on to Washington in year four.

Derrick Favors – 2011

Favors was traded to Utah halfway through his rookie season but he ended up staying with the Jazz for nearly a decade.

In his rookie campaign, Favors averaged 6.8 points and 5.3 rebounds on 51.7% from the floor.

He made the All-Rookie second team in 2011.

The Georgia Tech big man went on to have seasons where he averaged over 16 points and over 8 rebounds. He was a key role player for some talented Jazz teams in the mid-2010s.

Paul Millsap – 2007

Millsap had very similar stats to Favors in year one.

Millsap also made the rookie second team with averages of 6.8 points and 5.2 rebounds on 52.5%.

The Louisiana Tech product stayed with the Jazz for seven seasons and put up over 12 points and 7 rebounds in his tenure with Utah.

Millsap went on to have his best years in Atlanta where he made four-straight All-Star games.

Deron Williams – 2006

The second player on this list to make an All-Star game while playing for the Jazz is none other than Deron Williams.

Williams averaged 10.8 points and 4.5 assists in 80 games played which was good enough for a spot on the All-Rookie first team.

Williams made two all-star appearances while repping Utah and was in conversations with Chris Paul for the best Point Guard in the league.

Williams made the All-NBA second team twice and was top-ten in MVP voting in 2010.

Andrei Kirilenko – 2002

Kirilenko was nearly a Utah Jazz lifer, spending 10 of his 13 seasons in Salt Lake City.

In his first year, Kirilenko made the All-Rookie first team with averages of 10.7 points, 4.9 rebounds, 1.9 blocks, and 1.4 steals. He was third in Rookie of the Year voting.

With the Jazz, Kirilenko was top ten in Defensive Player of the Year voting three times.

Kirilenko’s best season came in 2004 when he was named an All-Star, finished fifth in DPOY voting, fourth in Most Improved Player voting, and top-15 in MVP voting.

Blue Edwards – 1990

One of the more forgotten players in Utah Jazz history had a rookie season that qualified him for this list.

Edwards played all 82 games in the 1990 season and averaged 8.9 points on 50.7% from the field.

Edwards went on to have his best years in Milwaukee after leaving the Jazz in 1992.

Karl Malone – 1986

As expected, the Mailman makes this list with one of the best rookie seasons in franchise history.

Malone averaged 14.9 points and 8.9 rebounds on 49.6% shooting in his rookie campaign. Those numbers earned him an All-Rookie first-team selection and he finished third in ROTY voting.

Malone’s rookie season was his only season in Utah averaging under 20 points per game.

Playing 18 of his 19 seasons with the Jazz, Malone went on to be a two-time NBA MVP, 14-time All-Star, 14-time All-NBA, and four-time All-Defensive player.

Thurl Bailey – 1984

An all-time fan favorite makes this list for his rookie season in 1984.

Bailey averaged 8.5 points and 5.7 rebounds on 51.2% shooting in his first year.

“Big T” spent 10 seasons in Utah and was a staple of Jazz teams in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Bailey finished top-6 in Sixth Man of the Year voting four times.

Darrell Griffith – 1981

Finally, we end with the Jazz’s second-overall pick in the 1980 Draft.

It was Utah’s second-ever first-round selection after moving from New Orleans in 1979. They selected Darrell Griffith out of Louisville.

Griffith is the only Utah Jazz player to win Rookie of the Year. In 1981, he averaged 20.6 points which was a top-20 mark in the NBA.

The Jazz struggled in Griffith’s early years but he was a part of some of the first competitive Utah teams in the mid-1980s.

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Chandler Holt is a co-host for the Jazz Notes podcast and a Digital Sports Producer for KSLSports.com, specializing in all things basketball and football. Follow Chandler on Twitter @ChandlerHoltKSL or on Threads @chandlerho1t.

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Best Utah Jazz Rookie Seasons Of All Time