When the NBA announced that the 2023 NBA All-Star weekend would be held in Salt Lake City, the Jazz franchise and fanbase were excited. They had two regular All-Stars, a top record in the league, and an energized fanbase. Shortly after that, the roster was drastically changed. Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell were shipped off to Minnesota and Cleveland, respectively, and Utah was left in a weird place. They were hosting an All-Star game with a roster that had no All-Stars.
Fast-forward a few months, and the Jazz are taking the league by storm. After playing over a quarter of their games, Utah is atop the Western Conference, and Lauri Markkanen looks to be in a prime position for an All-Star selection. His teammates have already started the campaign.
Markkanen is putting up career highs in most stat categories this year, including his team-leading 22.4 points per game. He’s putting together a rare season with his combination of points, rebounds, and efficiency in scoring. If the voting were to happen now, Markkanen would be almost a surefire All-Star.
Outside the All-Star game, Jazz fans are beginning to push for representation in the three-point contest. Malik Beasley, Utah’s sixth man, is currently third in the NBA in three-point makes this season, and he’s hopeful that he will be invited to participate.
In an interview with HoopsHype.com’s Michael Scotto, Beasley said, “If we stay in the top three, I feel like we can get two All-Stars in Lauri Markkanen and Jordan Clarkson. If we finish first or second, we can get me in the three-point contest and Kelly Olynyk in the skills challenge.”
Along with Beasley, the Jazz have a wealth of three-point shooters. Point guard Mike Conley participated in the 2021 three-point contest and fell just short, taking second place behind Stephen Curry. While not the most efficient shooter, Jordan Clarkson can catch fire with the best of them. Kelly Olynyk is tied for fifth in the league for three-point percentage, at precisely 50%. Utah could send any of these players and be well-represented.
The skills challenge is an ever-changing event. Last year, teams of three competed together, while in past years, it has been an individual event. Some of the most recent skills challenges have been themed for big men to participate, which would fit perfectly for Kelly Olynyk, Lauri Markkanen, and Jarred Vanderbilt.
Despite the preseason pessimism, the Utah Jazz could send multiple players to the NBA All-Star Weekend. I’ll go ahead and add that to the ever-growing list of things I didn’t think I’d be saying about this Jazz team.