When the Minnesota Timberwolves traded with the Utah Jazz for All-Star center Rudy Gobert, one of the players included in that trade package was the 7-foot-0 245-pound rookie center named Walker Kessler. While he was never expected to arrive in the NBA and immediately perform to the standards of Gobert, he certainly seemed to offer all of the rim protection that the Minnesota Timberwolves needed to help out Karl-Anthony Towns.
And he was a sight less expensive to boot.
I believe that the most intriguing aspect of Kessler was the mere fact that he was the first selection of Minnesota Timberwolves President of Basketball Operations Tim Connelly. While the track record for trades was mixed, Connelly had that reputation of an NBA Draft whisperer, of having the uncanny ability to sort through the draft profiles of dozens, perhaps hundreds, or prospects, and instinctively isolate and identify that handful of players who have a real shot to be something special in the NBA.
Walker Kessler was the first player selected by Connelly. But thanks to that immediate trade, he will benefit the Utah Jazz, and will not know the Minnesota Timberwolves as anything more than the team that traded him away almost instantly.
Kessler flashes significant NBA potential already
That’s disappointing because he flashes the ability to be a strong rim-protecting NBA center and, with a little work, he could be a bonafide starter next season:
Right now, Kessler is a solid rotational player for the Utah Jazz.
He averages 18.8 MPG / 6.9 PPG / 6.5 RPG / 0.6 APG / 1.8 BPG. Because his offense relies on lob passes and post-ups, he is scoring 72.9 percent of his shots from the floor. Most of all, despite being a rookie, he is not shy about wading into the fracas under the basket and banging bodies to get the rebounds necessary to keep the basketball for his team.
While it’s premature to try to guess what type of NBA career the Jazz rookie center will eventually grow into, he has shown no fear in his style of play so far.
Will Walker Kessler prove to be an NBA All-Star center someday? Perhaps. But not to worry. If he does become an All-Star, the Timberwolves can always trade a package of picks and players in the future to get him back.