Despite a career-high 13 assists for Jordan Clarkson, the Utah Jazz fell to the Oklahoma City Thunder 129-119.
The Jazz have now lost three in a row and it doesn’t look like that losing streak will be stopping any time soon with the number of injuries they’re dealing with. That said, there are some huge benefits to the losses piling up. Let’s take a look at them.
Tonight, Jordan Clarkson had a career assist night and deserves all the credit in the world for the amount of development he’s had. This upcoming free agency is going to be lucrative for Clarkson with free agency looking pretty sparse. If Jordan Clarkson leaves, the Jazz will have to rely on their young talent, and games like this one showed just how good some of the young talent is looking for the Jazz.
Ochai Agbaji is being given a wide variety of opportunities to grow. Tonight the Jazz had him initiating a lot of actions including running multiple pick and rolls. This type of development will not likely show immediate returns with wins but will give him the confidence in the future to initiate offense when he’s in a more suited role playing off of the Jazz’s future stars. Turning Agbaji into more than just a spot-up three-point shooter is a huge win for future Jazz teams. Tonight Agbaji ended with 14 points with 2 assists and 2 steals. He also took 5 free throws as he was driving to the basket multiple times. That confidence is a major win for this Jazz team.
Walker Kessler is being allowed to do things that he wasn’t allowed to do earlier in the season. He took another three tonight and, even though it didn’t fall, that ability to hit threes gives the Jazz an opportunity to possibly run a 5-out offense in the future which makes Kessler an even more valuable piece for the future. Can he become a legit threat from the three-point line? If he can, the sky is the limit for what Kessler will mean to this Jazz team. Considering what he’s doing on the defensive end (tonight he had 5 blocks!), giving him chances to develop offensively will pay off huge dividends in the future. Kessler took 11 shots tonight and was 8/11. They weren’t just pick-and-roll dunks, either. Kessler is showing ball skills and footwork near the basket. There’s a world where you throw the ball inside to Kessler and he can make things happen near the basket. This inside scoring option that was once a gaping hole in the Jazz offense in the past is looking like a strength of the future.
Finally, we’re getting some looks at Johnny Juzang these last few games and he’s showing a really nice shot from outside. Juzang has really nice size at 6’6” and might be a real asset for the Jazz of the future. Can they develop him into a passable defender that can knock down threes? It’s looking like the Jazz have yet another player to develop alongside all their young talent.
It’s also time to mention the benefits of losing. This draft has a plethora of options in the top ten. Yes, everyone is hoping to win that lottery and get either Wembanyama or Scoot, but there are also players like Brandon Miller and the Thompson twins that could be some incredible consolation prizes. If the Jazz somehow strike gold in the lottery they’re looking at a future filled with major upside, they just have to improve their positioning in the lottery.