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Utah Jazz fantasy basketball season recap

Timberwolves, Celtics even match in NBA Finals
Drew Dinsick and Jay Croucher discuss how a potential 2024 NBA Finals between the Minnesota Timberwolves and Boston Celtics would be a mostly even matchup that slightly favors the Celtics.

by Zak Hanshew, Rotoworld

Previous team recaps: DET, WAS, POR, CHA, SAS, TOR, MEM

At a glance:

Record: 31-51 (12th, West)

Offensive Rating: 114.5 (18th)

Defensive Rating: 119.6 (30th)

Net Rating: -5.1 (23rd)

Pace: 100.2 (10th)

2024 NBA Draft Picks: 10, 29, 32

Utah kicked off its total rebuild in the summer of 2022 by trading Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert. The team started the following season by playing surprisingly competitive basketball for the first couple of months before lack of talent and fierce competition eventually brought the Jazz back to earth. Utah finished 37-45 as the 12th seed in the Western Conference, and the team added John Collins the following offseason. Utah dropped six more games last season and finished as the 12th seed for a second straight campaign.

With plenty of projected cap space, multiple first-round picks this season and in future seasons and questions about the team’s direction, this offseason could be a crossroads for the franchise. Will Danny Ainge renegotiate Lauri Markkanen’s contract to work on an extension? Will the team move on from John Collins after just one season? What about the future of Talen Horton-Tucker and Collin Sexton?

Utah could go all-in on acquiring a key free agent or two, or they could choose to deal Markkanen and/or Collins and put the future focus squarely on the youth movement. The direction the team chooses will determine how impactful the following players will be, and the following fantasy notes have been written as if all of the players currently on the roster will be back in 2024-25. Since we don’t have a crystal ball, keep that caveat in mind.

Fantasy Standout: Lauri Markkanen

Markkanen finished as a top-20 fantasy option in his first season with the Jazz in 2022-23, but he took it up a notch in 2023-24 with his first-ever first-round finish. Markkanen was fantasy’s 12th-ranked player behind averages of 23.2 points, 8.2 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 0.9 steals, 0.5 blocks and 3.2 triples.

His steals, triples and FT% rose, but his points, rebounds and FG% decreased marginally. In terms of counting stats and shooting percentages, Markkanen’s numbers were quite similar to the ones he posted a season ago. The “Finnisher” should continue to post early-round value on a per-game basis, operating as the clear-cut top option for the rebuilding Jazz. Availability is a genuine concern for fantasy managers. He appeared in just 55 games in 2023-24, and Markkanen has averaged only 55.8 games played across his last six campaigns. That lack of games should be baked into his draft price for 2024-25 drafts, meaning Markkanen will likely fall to the third or fourth rounds.

Fantasy Revelation: Collin Sexton

He averaged 24.3 points per game in his third NBA season, and just when it looked like his trajectory was sending him straight to the moon, he fell tragically back to earth with a devastating injury that cost him all but 11 games in Year 4. Sexton was dealt to Utah the following summer as part of the Lauri Markkanen deal, and to call his first season in Salt Lake City a bust would be a massive understatement. More injuries cost him another 34 games, and he averaged just 14.3 points and 23.9 minutes across 48 appearances.

The hype for Sexton that was deafening before his first season with the Jazz went dead silent, but he bounced back in a big way. His minutes ticked up, and he was able to stay on the court, finishing with 26.6 minutes per tilt across 78 appearances. The Young Bull came off the bench to start the campaign, but he started 55 of his final 59 appearances and averaged 21.2 points and 5.6 assists while shooting nearly 50% in that span. He scored at least 20 points in exactly half of his games and dropped 20 or more in 11 straight at one point. Sexton finished just outside the top 100 on the season and inside the top 80 in totals. His stock is on the rise ahead of 2024-25 fantasy drafts.

Fantasy Disappointment: Walker Kessler

Expectations were sky-high for “The Ranger” following a top-60 rookie campaign in which he averaged 9.2 points (on 72.0 % shooting), 8.4 boards and 2.3 blocks across 23.0 minutes. After providing fifth-round value in his first season, Kessler was drafted in the mid rounds of 2023-24 fantasy drafts, and he was a huge letdown who posted seventh-round value.

Kessler’s playing time was bumped only marginally to 23.3 minutes, yet his production (outside of a slight uptick in blocks) fell with averages of 8.1 points (on 65.4% shooting), 7.5 boards and 2.4 blocks.

He started 40 of 74 games in Year 1 but just 22 of 64 in Year 2. Various bumps and bruises may have contributed to the downturn in production and lack of substantial playing time, but the disappointing campaign can’t be explained away solely with injuries. Kessler is expected to play in the Summer League again, which means Utah’s coaching staff thinks he needs more time to develop. That doesn’t bode well for a jump in Year 3, but Kessler’s huge upside as a shot-blocker should keep him in the conversation as a mid-to-late-round center option in 2024-25 drafts.

Fantasy Recaps/Look-Aheads

John Collins: As LL Cool J famously rapped, “Don’t call it a comeback. I’ve been here for years.” Collins opened up his career with five straight top-100 fantasy seasons, including four in a row inside the top-50 and one top-10 finish. Collins finished outside the top-100 for the first time in 2022-23 in a disappointing final campaign with the Hawks. The writing was on the wall that he’d be gone after the season, but the clean mountain air of Salt Lake City did wonders for him in his first year with Utah.

Collins averaged 15.1 points, 8.5 boards, 1.1 assists, 0.6 steals, 0.9 blocks and 1.3 triples, while shooting 53.2% from the floor and 79.5% from the charity stripe. The boards were his most since 2019-20, the FG% was his best since 2020-21, and he improved on his scoring from a season ago. Despite logging only 28.0 minutes per game - the fewest since his rookie campaign - Collins finished inside the top 80 in per-game fantasy value, cementing himself as a quality value option. His ADP will surely rise for 2024-25 fantasy drafts, but Collins is a safe option with plenty of upside on this rebuilding roster.

Keyonte George: George became a full-time starter on February 12 and never looked back. Over the final two months of the season, he averaged 15.8 points, 2.8 boards, 4.8 dimes and 2.4 triples across 31.4 minutes. George shot sub-40% in that span, but the points, triples and assists were quite valuable to fantasy managers. George set a career high with 33 points against the Warriors on February 15, and in that same game, he tied the rookie record with nine made three-pointers.

His 147 triples were the second-most among rookies this season, and he was one of six rookies with at least three 30-point games. Inconsistency and inefficiency were hallmarks of George’s inaugural season, but that’s often the case with rookies. The lows were rock-bottom, but the highs were dizzying, so we can certainly be optimistic after witnessing his upside. George has little competition for minutes at point guard next season, and an uptick in playing time coupled with a year of experience should mean a step forward. He’s an intriguing fantasy option for 2024-25, and he may be someone who’s available in the later rounds of drafts.

Taylor Hendricks: Hendricks started the season buried on Utah’s depth chart, but the trade deadline deals that sent out Simone Fontecchio, Kelly Olynyk and Ochai Agbaji opened up new opportunities. Hendricks started every appearance post-All-Star break, and he was a top-120 player for the final 13 games of the campaign.

In that span, he averaged 9.2 points, 4.9 boards, 0.9 steals and 0.7 blocks. While those averages didn’t win anyone their weeks, Hendricks was a serviceable fill-in option for managers in need of help off the waiver wire. He finished the season with one double-double and three games with double-digit boards. Utah may opt to start John Collins at center with Walker Kessler backing him up next season, which means Hendricks could be the team’s starting four. Like George, he’s a nice, late-round dart throw in 2024-25 drafts.

Jordan Clarkson: The 2023-24 season was one to forget for Utah’s “instant offense” guy, who finished the campaign outside the top 200 in per-game fantasy value. Clarkson enjoyed the best fantasy season of his career in his first year with the Jazz, finishing just outside the top 100 thanks in large part to the 3.0 triples per game he hit. In each of the last three seasons, his fantasy value has declined, culminating in a career-worst finish of 211. Clarkson started just 19 of the 55 games he played, and his scoring, rebounding, FG% and three-pointers fell. He’ll likely operate as a microwave scorer off the bench again next season as Utah focuses on developing the young talent on the roster. Clarkson isn’t a worthwhile fantasy option outside of deeper leagues for the 2024-25 season.

Restricted Free Agents: Ashton Hagans, Ibou Badji, Justin Minaya

Unrestricted Free Agents: Micah Potter, Kira Lewis Jr., Talen Horton-Tucker

Team Option: None