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Kessler, Markkanen Named Finalists For End Of Season Awards

Apr 14, 2023, 5:07 PM

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SALT LAKE CITY – Walker Kessler has been named a finalist for the NBA Rookie of the Year, and Lauri Markkanen is a finalist for the Most Improved Player.

The two Utah Jazz frontcourt players were named finalists for the awards on Friday on NBA on TNT.

Kessler and Markkanen helped lead the Jazz to 37 wins, falling just short of the Play-In Tournament in the Western Conference.

Markkanen averaged a career-high 25.6 points, 8.6 rebounds, and 1.9 rebounds per game while shooting 49 percent from the floor and 39 percent from the three-point line.

The Finnish forward was named to his first All-Star game in February and wound up starting the game in Utah in front of a home crowd.

Markkanen is also expected to compete for one of six forward spots across the three All-NBA teams.

Kessler burst onto the scene early becoming the first player ever to record a double-double, while shooting 100 percent from the floor in his first NBA game.

The Auburn product averaged 9.2 points, 8.4 rebounds, and 2.3 blocks while shooting a league-best 72 percent from the floor.

Kessler recorded 20 double-doubles and led all rookies in blocked shots.

Markkanen Could Be First Jazz MIP

Markkanen has a chance to become the first Jazz player ever to be named the NBA’s Most Improved Player.

The award was first introduced by the NBA in 1986, but no Jazz player has ever taken home the award.

Markkanen averaged 14.8 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 1.3 assists in a supporting role for the Cleveland Cavaliers last season.

Kessler would be the Jazz’s first Rookie of the Year winner since Darrell Griffith took home the award in 1981.

Past Utah Jazz End Of Season Award Winners

1981 Darrell Griffith – Rookie of the Year

Darrell Griffith, aka Dr. Dunkenstein, won the Rookie of the Year award for the Jazz in 1981. Drafted number two overall in the 1980 NBA draft, he’s the only Jazz player to ever earn the honor.

1984 Frank Layden – Coach of the Year, Executive Of the Year, Citizenship Award

It was a busy year for coach Frank Layden in 1984. After taking over the Jazz in 1981, Layden led the team from 17 wins, to 30 wins, to 45 wins in just his third season.

1985 & 1989 Mark Eaton – Defensive Player of the Year

Helping eschew in a new era of basketball alongside John Stockton and Karl Malone, Mark Eaton became the first Jazz player since Darrell Griffth to earn an end-of-season award.

The Man Mountain was named the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year in 1985 after averaging a league-record 5.6 blocks per game, and again in 1989 while averaging 3.8 blocks per game.

1989 Thurl Bailey – Citizenship Award

In 1989, reserve forward Thurl Bailey became the second Jazzman to earn the NBA’s Citizenship Award after Frank Layden won the award in 1984.

1997 & 1999 Karl Malone – MVP

The league’s most prestigious award so far has been reserved for the greatest player in Jazz history.

Karl Malone was named the MVP in 1997, averaging 25.7 points, 9.8 rebounds, and 4.2 assists while leading the Jazz to their first NBA Finals appearance.

Malone earned the honors once again in 1999 while leading to a share of the best record in the NBA at 37-13 during the lockout-shortened season.

2018 & 2019 Rudy Gobert – Defensive Player of the Year

Following in the shoes of Mark Eaton, Rudy Gobert is a two-time Defensive Player of the Year award winner.

Gobert became the Jazz’s first back-to-back end-of-season award winner, averaging 2.3 blocks and 12 rebounds over the two award-winning seasons

2021 Jordan Clarkson – Sixth Man of the Year

Jordan Clarkson etched his name into Jazz history by becoming the first player in franchise history to earn the Sixth Man of the Year award.

Clarkson led all bench scorers in the NBA averaging 18.4 points, 4.0 rebounds, and 2.5 assists for the Jazz, helping lead the team to the best record in the NBA for the first time in franchise history.

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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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Kessler, Markkanen Named Finalists For End Of Season Awards