Where does Jazz center Walker Kessler rank among most promising young players in the NBA?
The second-year center has struggled to start the season, but still has intriguing potential
Kessler was included in ESPN’s annual ranking of the top 25 players under the age of 25, released Tuesday morning.
The second-year center — age 22 — came in at No. 20 overall, ahead of the likes of Houston Rockets center Alperen Sengun (21 years old), Sacramento Kings small forward Keegan Murray (23), Portland Trail Blazers point guard Scoot Henderson (19), Miami Heat shooting guard Tyler Herro (23) and Detroit Pistons center Jalen Duran (19).
“When Kessler stepped into the starting lineup last season, he quickly established himself as one of the league’s better defensive centers,” ESPN’s Tim Bontemps writes. “The Jazz were a full 6.5 points worse per 100 possessions with Kessler on the bench as a rookie, and he is a perfect long-term building block next to Lauri Markkanen in Utah’s frontcourt. If he’s ever able to add a reliable 3-point shot, he could jump way up this list. Even if he doesn’t, Kessler is a worthy heir to Rudy Gobert as the anchor of Utah’s defense.”
That Kessler is held in such high regard isn’t that surprising, considering he was first-team All-Rookie last season, and was a member of Team USA at the FIBA World Cup.
Kessler has struggled to start this current NBA season, however, with his per-game averages falling almost across the board, as well as his Player Efficiency Rating (PER) and win shares.
Win shares are especially concerning, as Kessler went from contributing more than seven wins last season for the Jazz, to now contributing to less than one, per Basketball Reference.
Expectations were through the roof for Kessler entering the year, due to his strong performance as a rookie, and even if he suffers a sophomore slump — a regular thing for second-year players — he is still perceived as one of the more promising young players in the league.
The top five ranked players are as follows:
- Luka Doncic, point guard, Dallas Mavericks.
- Anthony Edwards, shooting guard, Minnesota Timberwolves.
- Victor Wembanyama, center, San Antonio Spurs.
- Tyrese Haliburton, point guard, Indiana Pacers.
- Ja Morant, point guard, Memphis Grizzlies.