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Shorthanded Jazz take on Suns

Will the Suns be able to handle the scrappy Jazz?

Utah Jazz v Phoenix Suns Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The Utah Jazz will be without a bunch of starters to injury against the Phoenix Suns tonight.

It has been the story for the Jazz the last few games as they’ve been without Jordan Clarkson, Collin Sexton, and lately, Lauri Markkanen. The thing that has been impressive is how competitive they’ve been. Despite not having their main starters, they had big games from players like Talen Horton-Tucker, Ochai Agbaji, and Walker Kessler. As far as winning games, it hasn’t been conducive to wins, but as far as development and working for a better draft pick, it’s been a huge win.

The Jazz have lost their last 3 and are getting a firm grip on the #9 spot in the lottery, which is a big deal. It’s a deep draft that will have a variety of choices for the Jazz at that spot, but the better their pick, the more choices they’ll have. Utah is just 2.5 games behind Washington and 3.5 games behind the Magic who have won 3-in-a-row. Can they somehow lose enough to get to the #8 or #7 spot? To do it, it will take a real commitment losing developing the youth. With just 8 games left, it will be close.

The other benefit of what the Jazz are doing is the development of their young players. Ochai Agbaji is being asked to do more than he ever would have if the Jazz had kept their veterans and competed hard for a playoff spot. Agbaji is now looking more and more like a complete player rather than a catch and shoot player on offense and perimeter defender. In his last 15 games (with 13 games as a starter) Agbaji is averaging 12.9 points, 2.5 rebounds, and 1.9 assists with a split of 42%/36%/80%. That’s an impressive line for a player that has become a big part of the Jazz offense night after night.

The other player that is seeing impressive gains is Walker Kessler. In that same 15-game span that has seen Agbaji grow, we’ve seen Kessler have some big games as well with 11.6 points, 11.1 rebounds, and 3.3 blocks per game. That includes going 74% from the field in that span. There is so much the Jazz gain by allowing Kessler to swim in the deep end of the development pool and figure out ways to score outside of just finishing as a roll man. Can he develop more confidence with simple baby hooks and push shots? He’s shown that’s a part of his game that is untapped.

Game Info

When: 7:00 PM MST

Where: Vivent Arena, Salt Lake City, Utah

TV: ATTSN-RM (AT&T Sports Net-Rocky Mountain)

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