Jazz: Will Hardy explains how Walker Kessler has improved as a blocker

Jazz: Will Hardy explains how Walker Kessler has improved as a blocker

Walker Kessler registered his second double-double of the season en route to a career night to help lead the Utah Jazz to a win at home over the Indiana Pacers.

Kessler produced a career-high 20 points, 11 rebounds, two blocks and one assist in the 139-119 win. He went a perfect 7-of-7 from the field in 25 minutes of work off of the bench. He is the fourth rookie ever to record at least 20 points and 10 rebounds and make every shot in a game.

The 22nd pick once again dominated inside of the paint by rebounding and altering shots. He hauled in four offensive rebounds and was a great lob threat after connecting on several looks from his teammates. He also got to the line, converting 6-of-8 attempts.

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Jazz coach Will Hardy explained his evolution as a shot-blocker.

He is everywhere, it feels like. He has worked really, really hard on understanding the ones he can’t block and not fouling. Keeping his hands back, using his body, using verticality and making guys have to make tough layups over him. I thought tonight was also his best game of the season defensive rebounding.

Because his instinct is to go protect the rim and alter shots, he can be out of position to rebound at times. I think he picked his spots well of when to go challenge and when to focus on rebounding. Those decisions are hard to make in real-time and the best guys in the league make more good decisions in those moments.

Kessler is averaging 5.7 points, 5.1 rebounds and 1.6 blocks on 74.3% shooting from the field in 22 games. He currently leads the rookie class in blocks and is eighth among all players in the NBA. His 30 total blocks are third-most by a Jazz rookie through 20 games.

Kessler has drawn praise throughout the season for his ability as a defender and rebounder and that was once again on display on Friday. He has also played with poise and maturity through the first quarter of the season, something that has stood out.


He credited his teammates for finding him versus the Pacers.

I think that when I’m playing with my teammates, they’re great at finding me. They understand that my advantage is my height so they know to throw it up. We took care of business tonight, that’s for sure. It wasn’t the prettiest game as far as the whistle but it was a lot of fun.

The 21-year-old is emerging as one of the most productive rookies this season with the Jazz. He seemingly comes off the bench each night and plays his role well. He does a lot of things that may not show up on the box score and that is proving to be valuable for the team.

His production, in a small role, offers a glimpse of what he can provide with more minutes. He has all of the tools to become one of the top rim protectors in the league and it seems like only a matter of until he can unlock that potential.



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Story originally appeared on Rookie Wire