Utah Jazz’s Walker Kessler should not be the early front-runner for the Defensive Player of the Year award

Walker Kessler, Utah Jazz (Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images)
Walker Kessler, Utah Jazz (Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images) /

Walker Kessler is a great defender but the Utah Jazz big man isn’t the front-runner for Defensive Player of the Year.

We like Walker Kessler. He’s going to be a great fit for the Utah Jazz and will be a multi-time Defensive Player of the Year winner when his career ends (barring injury). Yet, it’d be disingenuous to say he’s the front-runner for the award heading into the 2023-2024 season. Kessler only started 40 games last year and averaged just 23 minutes per game.

Kessler has a lot to do to improve himself. He’s on the way up, but he’s just 22 years old and has to prove he can compete against the best the NBA has to offer before we start saying things like “he’s the front-runner for the Defensive Player of the Year” award.

SLC Dunk (great name by the way), believes he should be the front-runner for the award, though they acknowledge that Kessler won’t be. The fact is, as great as Kessler was, he’s had one season of good play, hold off on the huge expectations.

He’s got to compete with Marcus Smart, Jaren Jackson Jr., Evan Mobley, and others for the award. Some betting outlets have him in the top 14 for the award, and that seems just about right. Asking a 22-year-old who hasn’t started an entire season of NBA basketball to win an award against the NBA’s elite is foolish.

That said, it’s very possible that Kessler competes, if not takes a spot on the NBA All-Defense team. He’s far more likely to earn a spot on that squad as opposed to winning an exclusive and elusive award like the DPOY.

If he did win the award, he’d become the third Utah Jazz player (all centers) to win the award; with Rudy Gobert winning three times in four seasons, and Mark Eaton winning it twice.

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