Utah Jazz End Of Season Grades

Apr 13, 2023, 2:34 PM

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SALT LAKE CITY – The Utah Jazz have officially wrapped up the 2022-23 campaign, 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 regular season in the rearview mirror.

Utah Jazz Final Four Factors Grades

Youth Development: A

Considering the Jazz didn’t draft any of their three rookies, they could have earned a passing grade simply by finding one steady rotation player that could be a part of the team in the future.

Instead, they ended up with one of the league’s top rookies in Walker Kessler, another promising role player in Ochai Agbaji, and a potential rotation piece in Simone Fontecchio.

Kessler is a lock to make the All-Rookie first team, and will keep his role as the team’s starting center entering next season.

The Jazz want him to get stronger, but he’s already proven to be one of the more promising young centers in the league.

Agbaji had a slow start to his rookie year, but finished with a bang appearing in 43 straight games and making 20 consecutive starts.

As a starter Agbaji averaged 13.6 points 2.6 rebounds, and 2.3 assists, but struggled with his shooting connecting on only 39 percent of his field goal attempts and 32 percent of his threes.

However, the rookie’s shooting percentages were weighed down heavily by three poor performances to close the season when he was thrust into a high-usage role on a depleted roster.

Before closing the year shooting 3-21 from three, Agbaji had connected on 41 percent of his field goals and  37 percent of his three-point shots in his previous 20 outings.

Fontecchio also showed promise late in the season, averaging 11.2 points and knocking down 26 percent of his three-point attempts over his final 18 appearances.

The Italian rookie knocked down four or more threes in five of his final 18 outings showing he’s got potential as a dangerous floor spacer, he just needs to find better consistency.

Overall, the Jazz have two players that should be considered longterm pieces of the puzzle, and a third that can contribute in the immediate future.

With either Kessler or Agbaji ever be a star? That remains to be seen, but they are NBA players, and that’s a big first step.

NBA Standings: B-

Despite a better-than-expected first season in the rebuild, the Jazz still found a way to land what is likely to be a single-digit lottery pick, finishing the year with the ninth-best odds to win the draft lottery.

For that reason alone, they earn a passing grade.

But, having finished just two wins ahead of the seventh and eighth-seeded teams in the lottery, one has to wonder if the Jazz maximized their lottery odds.

The Jazz clearly need another star to pair with Lauri Markkanen, and the likelihood of finding that player increases the higher they draft.

That isn’t to say they won’t have a little luck and move up in the draft, or that stars can’t be found in the second half of the lottery, but the odds aren’t in their favor.

Now it’s on the Jazz front office and scouting department to find that steal in the draft, and they’ve got their work cut out for them.

Veteran Performance: A

Lauri Markkanen’s All-Star season, which may earn him an All-NBA nod is enough to earn the Jazz a solid A this season.

They have found a legitimate first-option scorer to replace Donovan Mitchell and one who at seven-feet tall might only be scratching the surface of his potential. He’s also under contract for the next two seasons at an incredibly low number and seems like a cultural fit in Utah.

Beyond Markkanen, the Jazz had some high spots and lows.

Finding a high-level rotation player in Kris Dunn after the All-Star break, and locking him up on a minuscule contract through next season is a major victory.

But seeing Collin Sexton miss 34 of the team’s 82 games was a negative.

Kelly Olynyk and Jordan Clarkson both had strong seasons, but they’re likely placeholders in the big picture for the roster, and neither improved their stock enough to land the Jazz a future asset at the trade deadline.

Swapping Mike Conley, Jarred Vanderbilt, and Malik Beasley for a nearly unprotected future first-round draft pick from the Los Angeles Lakers, while clearing nearly $45 million from next year’s payroll was an extremely shrewd move.

Otherwise, the veterans performed mostly as expected.

Fun Factor: A-

Though the team finished with the fourth-worst record in the franchise’s last 40 years, there was no lack of entertainment value.

Markkanen’s burst onto the scene earned goodwill for the roster right out of the gate, while Kessler’s and Agbaji’s development throughout the season carried fans’ interest.

The team had a healthy locker room culture largely thanks to veterans like Clarkson and Olynyk who kept the team light but focused through the season.

To top it off, first-year coach Will Hardy showed a knack for leading a team, while also connecting with the fan base on an intimate level.

The last 25 games of the season had some low points, and the number of games missed by the team’s best players slowed the season’s momentum, but overall, it was a good year.

Jazz fans will remember the 2022-23 season as fondly as any over the last 15 seasons, and there’s not much more you can ask for.

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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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Utah Jazz End Of Season Grades