After the Utah Jazz traded Rudy Gobert to the Minnesota Timberwolves, much of the media and fan attention (rightfully) focused on the mammoth package of draft assets Utah got in return. But, while the 4 first-round draft picks and 1 pick swap headlined the deal, players Jarred Vanderbilt, Malik Beasley, Leandro Bolmaro, Walker Kessler, and Patrick Beverley are much more than salary fillers. Here is an in-depth look at each player’s strengths, weakness, and potential value for the Utah Jazz:
The 2018 second-round draft pick projects as the most promising player Utah received in the deal. Standing at 6’9” with a 7’1” wingspan, the 23 year old from Kentucky has shown his ability to serve as a versatile defender on a playoff team. Last year for the Timberwolves, in 67 starts, Vanderbilt put up modest averages of 6.9 points, 8.4 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 1.3 blocks, and 0.6 steals in 25 minutes a night.
On the advanced stats side of things, Vanderbilt’s numbers aren’t wildly impressive. He clocks in a +1.7 Defensive RAPTOR, 0.82 D-LEBRON, and 1.0 Defensive Box Plus/Minus. Across the board, his advanced offensive statistics all come in as negatives and his effective field goal percentage is slightly above league average at 59.0%. So, where is the promise?The numbers don’t scream potential All-Defensive level player, do they?.
Well, advanced statistics are messy and require a great deal of context. Last season, Minnesota ranked near the bottom of the league with a poor defensive rating of 111.7. Unless you are a generational defender like Rudy Gobert (consequently the player Minnesota traded for), it’s hard for a player to stand out on a poor defensive team. As a result, we have to look Vanderbilt’s film and physicals to judge his defensive potential. His strong 215lb frame and long arms give him the ability to effectively defend all five positions on the court. And that shows in plays like this:
Here, Vanderbilt uses his long arms to first disrupt the swing on the perimeter. Then, after getting behind the offensive player, Vanderbilt recovers beautifully for the block. The Jazz haven’t had this type of defensive versatility in years.
And take a look at this play, where Vanderbilt uses his long wingspan to get into passing lanes:
Again, this type of perimeter length has been absent from Utah’s defensive arsenal. It will go a long way in increasing their playoff “switchability” next season (should they be that competitive, which is a question in itself).
Finally, look at this clip of Vanderbilt moving his feet well on the perimeter and poking the ball away from the offensive player. To me, this type of defense really shows why many thought that Vanderbilt was a dark horse for an All-Defensive Team selection last season:
While Vanderbilt has real promise on the defensive end, his offensive game needs some work. He shot a solid 58.7% from the field last season, but only attempted 14 triples and missed on all but 2. His free-throw percentage of 65.6% doesn’t give me much hope that he’ll magically become a 35% three point shooter next year either. For him to become a more valuable player in the post-season, he’ll need to improve this part of his game. In Minnesota’s series against the Memphis Grizzlies, this hole in Vanderbilt’s game became very obvious.
Personally, I believe that Vanderbilt is worth keeping for the Jazz. He’s a buy-low prospect with some fantastic upside. If he can develop a jumpshot, Utah has a great player in their hands.
Through eight years in the NBA, Beasley has proved himself as a relatively effective volume scorer. During the 2020-21 season, Beasley averaged nearly 20 points per game for Minnesota while shooting about 40% from downtown. Last year, with less touches to go around on the Wolves, Beasley had a down year. He only averaged 12.1 points, 1.5 assists and 2.9 rebounds. For all intents and purposes, Beasley turned into a spot-up shooter on the perimeter. Just take a look at his shot chart from last season (per Basketball-Reference.com):
Beasley shot a career high 62.1 percent of his shots as catch-and-shoot triples, nearly double his frequency from the season prior. Interestingly, although Beasley’s ball-in-hand creation plummeted, his LEBRON Wins Added jumped from 1.10 to 2.20. If he can continue to improve as a threat on the perimeter, I think Beasley gives Utah immense value on the offensive end.
On defense, Beasley has consistently stood as net-negative. Basketball Index ranks Beasley as a “low activity” defender and pegged him at a -1.17 D-LEBRON. Yet, contradictory to his negative catch-all advanced defensive statistics, Beasley ranks in the 82nd percentile in pick-and-roll ball handler defense, just below players like Jimmy Butler. In my eyes, Beasley’s defensive production is a product of his effort. When he tries, he’s not too bad. When he doesn’t, he’s pretty poor. Sound like a familiar story Jazz fans?
But at this point in his career, figuring out who Malik Beasley is on the court is less difficult than finding out who he is off the court. In 2021, Beasley served 120 days in jail due to charges of felony threats of violence and felony drug possession. Those...don’t sound too great. Has Beasley turned a page since serving time in jail? Maybe! He hasn’t had any run-ins with the law since then. But obviously, this still stands as a big question mark on his resume.
Taken with the 23rd pick in the 2020 NBA draft, the Argentinian draft-and-stash player debuted in the NBA last season for the Timberwolves. In only 35 games, Bolmaro showed flashes of great play, but largely struggled in his limited minutes. Through spotty playing time, Bolmaro averaged 1.4 points, 1.2 rebounds, and 0.6 assists per game. He jumped up and down from the G-League and had a difficult time adjusting to the NBA game. Prior to this last season, Bolmaro spent his entire professional career playing on a second and third division levels for FC Barcelona.
At 6’6”, Bolmaro has solid size for a wing. He’s not exceptionally athletic, but his first step is surprisingly quick and he’s pretty effective when leaping laterally. He also moves his feet well and tends to have active hands. In his limited playing time, Bolmaro showed flashes of becoming a solid defender in the NBA. He gets physical and isn’t afraid of forcing contact with players, especially off the ball. But where Bolmaro becomes really interesting is with his creation off the dribble.
Let’s make something clear: Bolmaro is poor at putting the ball in the basket, both from range and inside. He shot a shockingly poor 31.5% from the field last season (granted, on a limited number of shots), and 27.8% from three. He simply can’t shoot the ball well. But, he has an exceptionally tight dribble. The dude is shifty. When he catches the ball in motion, Bolmaro is fantastic at changing directions at break-neck speed and pushing the pace. It makes him fun to watch, especially when he’s able to make some great passes like this:
He’s at his best in transition and can find players who run with him. Look at this one where he gets ahead of the defense and makes a sweet pass to the trailer:
At only 21 years old, Bolmaro has plenty of room to grow. He often gets ahead of himself and makes silly turnovers (in under 7 minutes a game, he somehow averaged 0.5 turnovers), but he’s a fun player with some on-court style. I was high on Bolmaro before the 2020 NBA Draft, and I’m likely still higher on him then most. But if he can develop some resemblance of a jumpshot, I think he could become a really impactful player on both ends.
At a towering 7’1”, Walker Kessler stands as the pseudo 5th first-round draft pick the Utah Jazz received in the Rudy Gobert trade. Selected with the 22nd pick in the 2022 NBA Draft (a pick that was coincidentally Utah’s originally), Kessler fills a more prototypical big-man mold. Playing for Auburn in his sophomore season, Kessler averaged 11.4 points, 8.1 rebounds, and an astronomical 4.6 blocks per game. Using his gigantic 7’4” wingspan, Kessler broke Auburn’s single-season record for blocks with a total 131. At the collegiate level, Kessler might be one of the greatest shot blockers of all time.
Yet, as the NBA draft neared, many people had Walker Kessler falling on their draft boards. A large reason for that is his lack of lateral quickness. While Kessler was able to hold his own in pick-and-roles and drop-big coverage during college, many have concerns over his ability to defend against the speed, athleticism, and spacing at the NBA level. But to be honest, I think these concerns are a little overblown. When watching his film from last season, I noticed that he moves more like Rudy Gobert than Roy Hibbert. Obviously, Kessler is nowhere near the level of Gobert, but he runs and moves across the court much quicker than you’d expect. He doesn’t lumber around and has solid reaction time.
On the offensive end, Kessler mostly served as a rim-runner and lob threat at Auburn. His hands are solid and he’s got respectable touch around the rim. Surprisingly, Kessler shot 1.5 threes per game, but only connected on 20% of them. I’m not sure if he’s got NBA range, but I find it intriguing that he’s got confidence to shoot the ball.
While he’ll likely never become more than a bench-level shot blocker in the NBA, I think Kessler is an intriguing prospect that will battle for backup minutes against Udoka Azubuike next season. If you want to learn more about Kessler, Adam Spinella has a great pre-draft scouting report on him here:
I chose to put Patrick Beverley at the bottom of this list since most of us already know him well. Given that the Jazz have a surplus of guards on their roster and Beverley could help a plethora of contenders in the league, I find it unlikely that he stays with Utah. Nonetheless, here’s a quick rundown on the scrappy, defensive oriented guard:
Last season, Beverley averaged 9.2 points, 4.1 rebounds, 4.6 assists, 1.2 steals, and 0.9 blocks on 40.6/34.4/72.2 percent shooting splits. He was the heart of a young Minnesota team and is the epitome of “love them when they're on your team, hate them when they're not.” He plays with passion, energy, and grit and usually fills the “instigator” role for every team he plays on. In all honesty, if he was younger and Utah didn’t have such a logjam at the guard positions, he’d be a perfect fit for this team. But for the sake of Utah’s future, trading him would be in their best interests. I wouldn’t be surprised if a team ponied up a first-round pick for him.
For the Utah Jazz, all five players they brought in with the Rudy Gobert trade could pose significant value, either as individual trade pieces or future rotational players. While Gobert is one of my favorite Jazz players of all time, the more I examine the deal Danny Ainge pulled off, the sweeter it looks.