The Utah Jazz gained the Rudy Gobert commerce. That a lot has been clear since, nicely, the second it was finalized, and because the common season has gone alongside, we have gotten quite a few reminders. The newest got here on Thursday evening with Walker Kessler’s big-time efficiency within the Jazz’s 120-119 time beyond regulation win over the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Kessler completed with seven factors, 18 rebounds and 7 blocks in what was a extremely entertaining contest. In addition to creating his first profession 3-pointer, Kessler turned the eighth rookie in NBA historical past to formally have at the least 18 rebounds and 7 blocks in the identical sport, per Stathead. The league didn’t begin recording blocks till the 1973-74, however since then six of the seven gamers to publish such a line went on to turn into Hall of Famers: Bill Walton, Ralph Sampson, Hakeem Olajuwon, David Robinson, Shaquille O’Neal and Alonzo Mourning. (And, in case you are questioning, John Henson is the reply to that trivia query.)
Those type of stats are enjoyable, however the extra necessary factor for the Jazz is that Kessler has already turn into a key cog who can keep on the ground in large moments. That potential proved essential within the closing seconds of regulation on Thursday, as Kessler got here up with game-saving performs on each ends of the ground.
“Big luxurious for us to have the ability to have him in on the finish of the sport as a result of you may put him on some perimeter gamers,” Jazz coach Will Hardy stated. “His size and timing and athleticism continues to face out. That block on Isaiah Joe on the finish of regulation was an enormous play. There’s not many guys who could make that play. Walker does a ton for us. I’m on him endlessly after which I come again within the locker room and he had 18 rebounds and 7 blocks. So I do not know, perhaps I’m an fool.”
His first second got here on offense. With the Jazz trailing by two and fewer than 20 seconds to play, Lauri Markkanen tried to go to work alongside the baseline, however could not get his spinning layup to go. Kessler, although, was there to crash the glass and fought off a number of Thunder gamers for the ball earlier than finally tying the sport on his second put-back try.
Down on the opposite finish, the Thunder received the ball to Joe, who had Kessler remoted on the perimeter and shook him with a nifty transfer. It appeared like Joe was on his option to a game-winning layup, however Kessler confirmed off some spectacular restoration abilities to get again within the play and swat Joe’s layup away on the buzzer.
In 2023, Kessler is averaging 10.5 factors, 9.7 rebounds and a pair of.4 blocks per sport on 69.5 p.c taking pictures from the sphere. For the season, Kessler’s 2.1 blocks per sport are good for fifth within the league, and he has three video games of at the least seven blocks; the remainder of the league has 5 mixed.
“I believe that is the actually enjoyable half about the place Walker is in his profession,” Hardy stated. He has the power to have nights like tonight the place he has 18 rebounds and 7 blocks, and our workers and even Walker when you ask him, we predict he can get so significantly better. There’s nonetheless a lot on the market that he can enhance.
“Yes, a few of that’s taking pictures 3s, however on the defensive finish I believe he can proceed to do extra. We gotta proceed to place him in conditions the place he’s guarding perimeter gamers some, we have now to modify with him a little bit bit, we have now to attempt to create defensive versatility with our workforce by how we use Walker. That’s for now and with the longer term in thoughts. I believe Walker has the potential to be any person that you simply construct a protection round. He’s proven nice progress this yr, but it surely’s on us as a workers to assist him proceed to develop.”
When the Jazz made the Gobert commerce, Kessler was type of an afterthought. A number of months on, he now appears to be like just like the centerpiece, and a direct alternative for the Frenchman. If a youthful, cheaper model of Gobert was all of the Jazz received in that deal, it nonetheless would have been a win for them. As it’s, additionally they received 4 extra first-round picks and a decide swap from the Timberwolves, and numerous gamers whom they’ve subsequently used to accumulate Talen Horton-Tucker and the Los Angeles Lakers’ 2027 first-round decide.
Danny Ainge has carried out it once more.
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