Utah Jazz’s Walker Kessler named to All-Rookie First Team

The center is honored among the five best first-year players in the NBA for the 2022-23 season.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah Jazz center Walker Kessler (24) defending San Antonio Spurs forward Keldon Johnson (3) as the Utah Jazz host the San Antonio Spurs, NBA basketball in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2023.

Utah Jazz center Walker Kessler was named to the NBA’s All-Rookie First Team on Monday afternoon, capping a highly successful debut season for the 7-foot-1 center.

Rookie of the year Paolo Banchero of the Orlando Magic headlined the All-Rookie Team, as the only player to be selected as a first-teamer on all 100 ballots. He and Kessler were joined on the First Team by Bennedict Mathurin of the Indiana Pacers, Keegan Murray of the Sacramento Kings, and Jalen Williams of the Oklahoma City Thunder.

They were also the top five vote-getters in the rookie of the year balloting.

Kessler finished third in Rookie of the Year voting, behind Banchero and Williams.

In the All-Rookie voting, Kessler was named First Team on 95 ballots, and Second Team on the other five.

The Auburn product — acquired last July 1 in the trade that sent Rudy Gobert to the Minnesota Timberwolves — averaged 9.2 points, 8.4 rebounds, and 2.3 blocks in 23.0 minutes per game for the season, while shooting 72.0% from the field. His 2.3 blocks led all rookies and ranked fourth among all NBA players this season, while his 8.4 boards ranked second among all rookies.

After coming off the bench early in the season, Kessler wound up starting 40 of the 74 games he appeared in, and his productivity saw a corresponding bump. Following the All-Star break — in which he participated in both the Rising Stars tournament and the Skills Challenge — the 21-year-old averaged 12.4 points, 10.8 rebounds, and 3.3 blocks per game (with the most total blocks in the NBA during that span), while shooting 73.6% from the field.

The All-Rookie Second Team featured Pistons teammates Jaden Ivey and Jalen Duren, plus Rockets teammates Jabari Smith Jr. and Tari Eason, along with the Spurs’ Jeremy Sochan.

Despite a strong finish to the season, the Jazz’s other rookie, Ochai Agbaji, did not receive any votes.

The NBA’s All-Defensive team will be revealed Tuesday, and All-NBA will be announced Wednesday. Jazz forward Lauri Markkanen, who won Most Improved Player honors, is a candidate for one of the six forward positions on the All-NBA First, Second, or Third teams.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.