Walker Kessler faced challenges in his second NBA season, but he managed to navigate through them without completely falling apart.

Walker Kessler had an outstanding rookie season with the Utah Jazz, far exceeding typical expectations for a 22nd overall draft pick. He finished third in Rookie of the Year voting, was selected for the Rising Stars team during All-Star Weekend in Utah, and earned a spot on the All-Rookie First Team.

This success led to an offseason invitation to participate with Team USA, raising expectations for his second NBA season. However, how did he perform against these heightened expectations?

**Walker Kessler — C**

Despite facing challenges during the 2023-24 season, Kessler maintained his defensive prowess and played an average of 23.3 minutes per game, similar to his rookie season. The main issue was the lack of significant improvement coupled with high expectations from his successful rookie year. Kessler himself acknowledged his struggles and how he handled them.

“I think that you can either crash and burn, or look for the good out of it and try to learn from it,” he said. “I haven’t been close to crashing and burning, but I’ve been close to being overheated with a little turbulence.”

Kessler’s experience with Team USA did not meet his expectations, as he played sparingly and returned to a Jazz team that had changed significantly, especially with the addition of John Collins and further changes at the trade deadline.

Throughout the season, Kessler struggled to cope with the changes and his own frustrations, affecting his performance. While there were areas he could have improved upon, such as his offensive threat beyond just scoring from rebounds and the dunker spot, his progress stalled. Jazz coach Will Hardy emphasized that Kessler needed to be more involved offensively, but there were reasons plays weren’t run for him.

Kessler needs to enhance his screening abilities, free-throw shooting, and touch around the rim. Despite the challenges, the Jazz remain committed to Kessler and his potential. The upcoming 2024-25 season will be crucial for him to demonstrate his ability to improve and exceed expectations.