The NBA announced that Walker Kessler is a finalist for the Rookie of the Year award.
The 2022-23 finalists for Kia NBA Rookie of the Year pic.twitter.com/Fzy2Fcpzfo— NBA Communications (@NBAPR) April 14, 2023
Kessler was a major part of what has been a surprisingly competitive, fun season for the Utah Jazz this year. He’s likely the most surprising of the three finalists after starting the season as a throw-in in the Rudy Gobert trade.
Many forget, but Kessler was not in summer league because of off-season movement and so Jazz fans didn’t get to see him play until the season began. Coming off the bench for the first third of the season, Kessler showed right away that the Jazz might have a steal on their hands. His block rate off the bench was incredible, and he slowly earned more and more minutes until he eventually replaced Jarred Vanderbilt. That level of play allowed the Jazz to make the eventual trade with the Lakers, which opened up even more minutes for the impressive rookie from Auburn.
As the season went on, Kessler earned more and more minutes as he proved to be one of the most important parts of the Jazz team. And as many rumors as the Jazz were tied to during the trade deadline, they made it clear Kessler was untouchable. Kessler didn’t put up the numbers that Banchero and Williams did, but his efficiency and impact on both ends of the floor were incredible.
Kessler will likely get third in voting, but the fact he’s even there shows just how good the Rudy Gobert trade was for the Jazz. This offseason, Kessler has the chance to add to his game. Can he add some range? Can he add some strength? Doing those things will make him a more dynamic player and can make him a vital pice of a possible championship future for the Jazz.