The Utah Jazz missed the postseason for the first time since 2016 after winning 37 games yet still embarked on an exciting new direction for the franchise. Utah traded Donovan Mitchell to the Cleveland Cavaliers after three straight All-Star seasons and one of the return players made an instant impact for the Jazz. That would be former top-10 pick Lauri Markkanen, who earned his first All-Star nod after averaging a career-best 25.6 points per game — nearly 12 points higher than his previous season. Markkanen grabbed 8.6 rebounds per contest on a career-high 50 percent shooting and was named the NBA’s Most Improved Player. Walker Kessler slipped to the 22nd pick in the draft, and the 7-foot rookie center was selected to the All-Rookie First Team after averaging 9.2 points and 8.4 rebounds for Utah on 72.2 percent shooting. Kessler’s numbers improved to 11.5 points, 10.2 rebounds and 2.7 blocks in the 40 games he started while also ranking as Utah’s highest-rated defensive player. The Jazz ranked seventh in the league in points per game and got offensive production from veteran guard Jordan Clarkson, who finished second on the team with 20.8 points per game. Veteran big man Kelly Olynyk also provided leadership to a young roster, as well as 12.5 points and 6.2 rebounds in his 68 starts. Collin Sexton — who joined Markkanen in the trade from Cleveland — shot a career-best 50.6 percent from the field while averaging 14.3 points per contest.
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