Walker Kessler gets a surprise promotion with Team USA

“How ’Bout This Jazz” newsletter: Utah Jazz center will be playing in the FIBA World Cup in the Philippines this August and September. Plus, Kessler rejects some kids, and a mock draft round-up.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Team Deron's Walker Kessler (24) is introduced at the Jordan Rising Stars event as part of NBA All-Star Weekend, in Salt Lake City on Friday, Feb. 17, 2023.

Utah Jazz center Walker Kessler has been named to represent Team USA at the FIBA World Cup tournament to be held between Aug. 25 and Sept. 10 in the Philippines, Japan, and Indonesia.

It had been presumed that Kessler, as a second-year player who only really started the latter half of his rookie season, would be making some Salt Lake City and Las Vegas summer league appearances for the Jazz. And Tony Jones of The Athletic reported that Kessler originally had been slated to be part of for the Select Team of young players that would put Team USA through its paces before the actual competition.

But this news, first reported by ESPN, is a huge step up for Kessler.

I get that there are fans out there looking at a Team USA roster devoid of superstars and multi-time All-Stars and calling it the worst international-competition roster ever, but frankly, such hyperbole is irrelevant. This is a cool opportunity for Kessler that will make him a better player.

Per multiple reports, the Team USA roster right now is:

  • Mikal Bridges, Nets

  • Jalen Brunson, Knicks

  • Anthony Edwards, Timberwolves

  • Tyrese Haliburton, Pacers

  • Brandon Ingram, Pelicans

  • Jaren Jackson Jr., Grizzlies

  • Cam Johnson, Nets

  • Walker Kessler, Jazz

  • Bobby Portis, Bucks

  • Austin Reaves, Lakers

It looks like there are two players yet to be named to the 12-man team. Also, looking at that roster, you can see why, even at just 21 years old, he’s getting a chance. Team USA has been criticized in recent years for having an underwhelming cadre of big men. And with this team having just Jackson and Portis as the other bigs for now, you’d think there will be opportunities for Kessler to get on the court for this team.

Getting to team up with high-level guys (no matter what Twitter says) from other NBA teams, getting some instruction from Steve Kerr, and getting a different taste of top competition should only help his game.

In round-robin group-stage play, Team USA will face New Zealand on Aug. 26, Greece on Aug. 28, and Jordan on Aug. 30.

Assuming Team USA advances in the 32-team tournament, it’d be cool to see him get to go up Jazz teammates also participating in the tournament, such as Lauri Markkanen (Finland), Jordan Clarkson (Philippines), Kelly Olynyk (Canada), and Simone Fontecchio (Italy).

Some of Walker’s best blocks yet

Whenever I hear of an NBA player taking part in a youth skills camp, I’m always curious to see if the inevitable videos of them getting in there with the campers will feature them taking it easy and making some kid’s day by letting him/her score on an NBA player, or if it’ll feature them making some kid’s day by swatting the absolute bejeezus out of their shot attempts and, in turn, dunking all over them.

With Kessler, we now have our answer, as the Jazz featured him embracing his inner John Kreese and showing “No mercy.”

Quick hits

Andy Larsen just broke down some of the prospects’ traits that could make them a success (or not) with the Jazz’s top draft pick. And I’ve done a mock draft 1.0 and 2.0 already, and will have my final 3.0 version out the morning of June 22, the day of the actual draft. But in case you’ve missed some of the other ones out there projecting who the Jazz might select with pick Nos. 9, 16, and 28, here’s a quick roundup of some of the more notable mocks from the past few days:

The Athletic (June 15): Ausar Thompson, Kobe Bufkin, Brandin Podziemski.

The Ringer (June 15): Bilal Coulibaly, Cason Wallace, Dariq Whitehead.

The Associated Press (June 15): Taylor Hendricks, Cason Wallace, Colby Jones.

ESPN (June 14): Taylor Hendricks, Jordan Hawkins, Maxwell Lewis.

L.A. Times (June 13): Cason Wallace, Leonard Miller, Olivier-Maxence Prosper.

NBADraft.net (June 12): Gradey Dick, Jalen Hood-Schifino, Colby Jones.

CBS Sports (June 12): Keyonte George, Leonard Miller, Maxwell Lewis.