Perhaps it will come as no surprise to those who have been paying attention to such things, but on Friday evening, the Utah Jazz’s Lauri Markkanen and Walker Kessler were officially named finalists for major NBA season awards.
Markkanen was named one of the three finalists for Most Improved Player, while Kessler was named one of three finalists for Rookie of the Year.
Markkanen will be vying for Most Improve Player with Oklahoma City Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and New York Knicks guard Jalen Brunson, while Kessler is a finalist for Rookie of the Year with the Orlando Magic’s Paolo Banchero and the Thunder’s Jalen Williams.
In his sixth season in the NBA (his first with the Jazz after being traded from the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Donovan Mitchell deal), Markkanen broke out during the 2022-23 campaign, as he averaged 25.6 points, 8.6 rebounds and 1.9 assists in 34.4 minutes per game.
His production led to his first career appearance as an All-Star in February after he had averaged fewer than 15 points per game in his previous three seasons.
As for Kessler, he was part of the Rudy Gobert trade with the Minnesota Timberwolves last summer.
The 22nd pick in the 2022 NBA draft, Kessler was a very effective backup center early in the season before ultimately being put in the starting lineup for 40 games.
Kessler wound up averaging 9.2 points, 8.4 rebounds and 2.3 blocks in exactly 23 minutes per game.
Markkanen is widely seen as having a very real shot of winning Most Improved Player, while Banchero is considered the decisive frontrunner for Rookie of the Year.
In all, the NBA announced the finalists for seven awards Friday. The winners of the awards will be announced throughout the league’s playoffs.
Here are the finalists for all seven of the awards:
Most Valuable Player
Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks.
Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers.
Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets.
Defensive Player of the Year
Jaren Jackson Jr., Memphis Grizzlies.
Brook Lopez, Milwaukee Bucks.
Evan Mobley, Cleveland Cavaliers.
Most Improved Player
Jalen Brunson, New York Knicks.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Oklahoma City Thunder.
Lauri Markkanen, Utah Jazz.
Rookie of the Year
Paolo Banchero, Orlando Magic.
Walker Kessler, Utah Jazz.
Jalen Williams, Oklahoma City Thunder.
Sixth Man of the Year
Malcolm Brogdon, Boston Celtics.
Bobby Portis, Milwaukee Bucks.
Immanuel Quickley, New York Knicks.
Clutch Player of the Year
Jimmy Butler, Miami Heat.
DeMar DeRozan, Chicago Bulls.
De’Aaron Fox, Sacramento Kings.
Coach of the Year
Mike Brown, Sacramento Kings.
Mark Daigneault, Oklahoma City Thunder.
Joe Mazzulla, Boston Celtics.