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Players to watch following World Cup performance

Utah Jazz center Walker Kessler didn’t get a lot of quality minutes during the international tourney, but if you’re the Jazz that may be a good thing

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U.S. center Walker Kessler gestures during World Cup bronze medal game between the United States and Canada in Manila, Philippines, Sunday, Sept. 10, 2023.

Aaron Favila, Associated Press

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The 2023 FIBA World Cup came to an end last week with Germany crowned as champions, Serbia earning second place, Canada coming in third and Team USA missing out on the top three.

After weeks of international competition, with NBA players scattered across the globe, I couldn’t help but think about what this tournament was going to mean for certain players in the upcoming NBA season. So, I put together a top-three list:

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander — Oklahoma City

The Thunder guard made his All-Star debut last season, was named to the All-NBA First Team, finished fifth in MVP voting for the 2022-23 NBA season, and averaged 31.4 points, 5.5 assists, 4.0 rebounds, 1.6 steals and 1.0 block per game. Though OKC did not afford him much national attention, Gilgeous-Alexander was an absolute star.

He followed it up with an incredible performance during the World Cup, often looking like the best player in the tournament. With OKC getting Chet Holmgren back this season and the likes of Josh Giddey (who was great for Australia this summer), it’s hard to imagine the Thunder not soaring and SGA not having a sensational season.

Walker Kessler — Utah Jazz

His name won’t be on anyone else’s World Cup list, because he barely got playing time and was coming off the bench largely in garbage minutes. But, it’s my job to think about the Utah Jazz players and it is the lack of playing time that’s got me thinking about Kessler.

His rookie season was a dream with the Jazz and he quickly endeared himself as a fan favorite for his play and personality. One of the things that I know after spending a year around Kessler is that he is very hard on himself and takes a lot of pride in his abilities.

While I’m sure he understands being on Team USA usually requires young players paying their dues and standing behind some seniority, he’s also going to want to prove that he was worth more than spot minutes. There are always team goals in basketball, but some personal motivation can go a long way and I think he’ll be wanting to prove that he could have been more useful.

Karl-Anthony Towns and Rudy Gobert — Minnesota Timberwolves

The bonus here is that being teammates makes this whole thing a lot more interesting. Towns played valiantly for the Dominican Republic, proving that he is still a force on the court.

Meanwhile, Gobert was a disappointment for France, so much so that Tony Parker insinuated that it might be time to move on to a new generation of players for the French national team. Yikes.

It’s clear that the Timberwolves need to do something and for a while that something has seemed like trading Towns. But does that mean betting on Gobert in the latter years of his career? We’ll see.

New with the Jazz

How to pass the offseason

Read a book!

I’m an avid reader and I’m in a book club throughout the year, but in the offseason I kick things into overdrive because I know my reading days are numbered during the NBA season.

Some of my favorites I finished this summer were “Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea” by Barbara Demick (grim but also beautiful and necessary), “Sense and Sensibility” by Jane Austen (revisiting it after having read it in college and loved it even more this time), “The 712 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle” by Stuart Turton (a period murder mystery that also ties in some fun sci-fi elements) and “The Troop” by Nick Cutter (horror and gore).

This is also a good time to remind everyone to get a library card. They’re free, they’re easy to use and you can enjoy all of the things that public libraries offer, which goes way beyond books!

From the archives

Extra points

  • Opinion: In-season tournament is just what the NBA regular season needs (Deseret News)
  • Proceeds from Jazz preseason opener will go to Hawaii wildfire relief (Deseret News)
  • NBA board approves tougher resting policy for stars (ESPN)

Around the league


France center Rudy Gobert (27) battles for the possession of the ball against Ivory Coast forwards Vafessa Fofana (12), and Patrick Tape (4) during World Cup classification match between Ivory Coast and France at the Indonesia Arena stadium in Jakarta, Indonesia, Saturday, Sept. 2, 2023.

Dita Alangkara, Associated Press