The Utah Jazz and San Antonio Spurs are in similar situations. Both teams are looking to add talent to their roster in the draft. The difference is the Jazz have core building blocks for the future already and those core building blocks are still powering them to wins. Tonight, Lauri Markkanen and Walker Kessler showed why the Jazz view them as such important core pieces as they helped the Jazz pull away late from the Spurs, 118-102.
The Spurs got a double-digit lead in the first quarter and held it for most of the game, but when the Jazz buckled down in the 4th quarter they were able to pull away easily.
Lauri Markkanen is an elite player in the league at this point and regardless of who’s around him. Tonight’s backcourt was Kris Dunn, on a 10-day contract, and Talen Horton-Tucker and Markkanen scored 27 with a split of 52/42/100. When you have an all-NBA talent like that it’s hard to lose these games against the bottom-feeder teams in the league. Along with Markkanen, Walker Kessler had another night showing why he’s becoming a huge part of the Jazz future. Kessler finished with 9 points, 12 rebounds, and 5 blocks. His presence on both ends of the floor is destructive to the opposing team. Whether it’s the incredible rim protection on defense or the pressure on the offensive glass, Kessler impacts everything on the floor. His hands are also impeccable. He gets every loose ball near him whether in the air or on the floor and then has the ability to either go up strong and score or pass to one of his teammates on the outside. This duo is going to be great for Utah for many years to come and they just have to build around them now.
As far as the Spurs, it’s a stark contrast from what the Utah Jazz have become. They have almost no real building blocks except for a likely nice role-player in Jeremy Sochan. They’ll definitely get a nice player in the upcoming draft, but that will be the only cornerstone player on the team. When the Jazz picked up Markkanen they didn’t realize how much of a cornerstone piece he would be. We’ll see if the Jazz get lucky in the lottery, although as of writing this the Jazz are the 9-seed in the Western Conference, but if they can find a way to build around what they have in Markkanen and Kessler, there’s no reason they can’t be real contenders soon considering all the assets they’ve accumulated.