The Utah Jazz traded their star rim protector away in the offseason, but it didn’t take long before they found the perfect replacement.
For years, Rudy Gobert was one of the league’s defensive stalwarts and arguably the best shot blocker in basketball, so losing him was going to be a big blow for their interior defense.
That would’ve been true if they hadn’t gotten Walker Kessler in return for that very same trade, and it didn’t take long before he proved it.
The Auburn product had shown flashes of elite rim protection in college, even recording a triple-double with blocks before taking his talents to the league.
Now, following some understandable early-season struggles, the 21-year-old is playing like a legit future Defensive Player of the Year, and putting the league on notice by being perhaps the most dominant shot-blocker and rim protector since January 1.
Kessler is dominating both sides of the glass, averaging 13 points, 12 rebounds, and three blocks per game on 70% shooting over his past eight games.
He’s even had a couple of games with seven blocks, including a 7-point, 18-board, 7-swat performance on 75% from the floor.
Walker Kessler in his last 8 games:
14 PTS | 11 REB | 5 BLK | 85.7 FG%
17 PTS | 14 REB | 7 BLK | 80.0 FG%
13 PTS | 9 REB | 3 BLK | 66.7 FG%
16 PTS | 9 REB | 3 BLK | 60.0 FG%
23 PTS | 9 REB | 3 AST | 83.3 FG%
4 PTS | 15 REB | 2 BLK | 66.7 FG%
10 PTS | 14 REB | 3 BLK | 50.0 FG%
7… https://t.co/TJMWOm6rkH pic.twitter.com/amVAkpcu8G
— NBA Muse (@NBAMuse24) February 24, 2023
Needless to say, this is fairly impressive for a guy in his first season in the league, and the sky seems to be the limit for him at just 21 years old.
Kessler was this year’s 22nd overall pick, yet he’s playing like a top-10 talent, and he’s just getting started.
So, yeah, they don’t miss Gobert at all in Utah.NEXT: The Jazz’s Draft Haul Continues To Grow