The Utah Jazz are 31 games into their 2023-2024 season. For the majority of the other 29 NBA teams, it’s obvious who their two best players are. For the Utah Jazz, it’s obvious that Lauri Markkanen is the Jazz’s best player. A harder question to answer is who is the Jazz’s second-best player? Out of the available 16 options (sans Markkanen, 16 players have logged minutes for Utah), every single one of them has had their minutes shortened for some games because of an on-court weakness. This means that the 2nd best player on the Jazz is no more than a solid role player, nothing close to an all-star.
Going off of statistics, @AndrewDBailey is a great resource because of his catch all statistic metric.
If you sort every NBA player with 100+ minutes in 2023-24 by the AVERAGE OF THEIR RANKS in 8 catch-alls (BPM, EPM, LEBRON and GmSc/Poss, as well as the cumulative versions of each)...— Andy Bailey (@AndrewDBailey) December 24, 2023
1. Nikola Jokić (1.38)
2. Joel Embiid (1.75)
3. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (3.13)
Based off of Andy’s current ranking, Jazz players rank as following among the whole NBA:
30. Lauri Markkanen
116. Collin Sexton
122. Kelly Olynyk
131. Walker Kessler
155. Talen Horton-Tucker
212. Jordan Clarkson
244. John Collins
271. Simone Fontecchio
280. Kris Dunn
296. Ochai Agbaji
315. Taylor Hendricks
318. Keyonte George
319. Omer Yurtseven
(Brice Sensabaugh, Johnny Juzang, Micah Potter, and Luka Samanic have not played enough minutes to qualify for the ranking)
Taking a look at other stats not combined, you see a similar theme among player production and Andy’s stat.
Based off of stats and the eye test, I’ve narrowed the candidates for 2nd best Jazzmen of the season to Collin Sexton, Keyonte George, Jordan Clarkson, John Collins, Kelly Olynyk, and Walker Kessler. Ochai Agabji, Taylor Hendricks and Kris Dunn have been solid this year, particularly on the defensive end but their lack of offensive contribution eliminated them from contention. Kris Dunn is also a good floor general and for that, he nearly broke into the candidates for 2nd best Jazzman. Fontecchio and THT have been good offensively at specific skills, but their inability to do more than their specific skill (Fontecchio can shoot well, isn’t great at anything else, Horton-Tucker’s turnovers and bad shot selection limit him) took them out of the running. The Jazz have 12 players who are good enough to be in NBA rotations (You could argue that Omer Yurtseven belongs in that list) but playing 10 players a night is more effective so don’t be surprised to see more DNPs from Hendricks and Talen Horton-Tucker if everyone is healthy. Jazz players ranking for their offensive or defensive specialist’s goes as following:
12: Taylor Hendricks
11: Talen Horton-Tucker
10: Simone Fontecchio
9: Ochai Agbaji
8: Kris Dunn
Candidates for 2nd Best Jazzman Ranked
7. Keyonte George: If there was a 2023 redraft, Keyonte George would likely be drafted in the top 5. George’s good passing and understanding of the game forced him into the rotation and then into the starting lineup. George was not scouted as a good passer or defender but has been the best passer of the 2023 class and plays solid defense. What's holding George back is his shooting. He is shooting 36 FG% and 32 3P%. If this list was for who has the 2nd best potential on the team, George would be top of the list, but his current play logs him at #7. Hopefully he continues to rise the ranking as the year goes on.
6. Kelly Olynyk: The point center, 3-point ace Olynyk has been a consistently effective role player for the year. Olynyk’s weakness offensively is that he should be more selfish, but his pass first nature makes him ideal for helping develop young players. Olynyk’s aggressive play is the main reason the Jazz beat the historically slumping Pistons but that was an anomaly for Kelly. Olynyk’s lack of speed and verticality make him a liability as a paint defender, which will forever limit him to a role player.
5. John Collins: While John Collins isn’t the 20 and 10 guy he was a few years ago, his offensive versatility and rebounding have been a consistent force for the Jazz. Collins is just as good shooting 3’s as he is at scoring at the rim. Collins has been struggling to find his place as a defender on the team though. Collins has the athleticism to be the team's best defender but as of now, he is far from that. Even though he has been scoring efficiently, sometimes he is caught standing around on offense, not helping the teams flow. If Collins better adapts to the team’s needs, he can become the team’s 2nd best player by years end.
4. Collin Sexton: In all honesty, 4-2 are extremely interchangeable. Collin Sexton has been amazing since being inserted into the starting lineup. His knack to score from anywhere on the floor have been a big reason why the Jazz are 6-2 in their last 8 games. Sexton also brings a competitive fire every game; he will dive for loose balls, play full court defense, and take a beating while driving to the rim. With that in mind, Sexton’s inability or unwillingness to be a pass first guard is a reason why the Jazz are below .500. Sexton also isn’t a good defender, despite his effort.
3. Walker Kessler: Walker Kessler started the year in a sophomore slump. Part of his mediocre beginning is contributed to the injury he received in the first game of the year from a recklessly dirty play by Domantas Sabonis. Kessler’s stats are still below his rookie year stats, and he just seems to have less touch around the glass this year, but his defense is still elite. Kessler is averaging nearly 3 blocks in 25 minutes of play. Kessler’s defense changes the whole dynamic of the game. While Kessler may never be a star, his future as a great role player is apparent.
2. Jordan Clarkson: Placing Clarkson at #2 is controversial because this is Clarkson’s worst statistical year with the Jazz. Clarkson is shooting at a poor clip and for some games has played with no energy and had bad body language. That being said, the Jazz are far more likely to win when Clarkson has a good game. Clarkson is still the Jazz’s best guard because of his mix of being able to self-create and ability to find others for open looks. At this point, no other player on the team can create like Clarkson. What Clarkson brings to the table is a discount version of a star like Zach LaVine or Bradley Beal. The Jazz desperately need a player to fill the self-creating star guard role and Clarkson, despite his flaws, is the best player to fill that role.
A compelling case could be made for 6 players to be the Jazz’s 2nd best player. That means that the Jazz have good depth but are lacking top tier talent to alleviate the burden placed on Lauri Markkanen to lead the team. Who do you think the Jazz’s second-best player is? Let us know in the comments.