Eight days into his NBA career, former Auburn center Walker Kessler is already on his third team.
Kessler – who was technically drafted by Memphis 22nd overall in the NBA Draft last week before being shipped to Minnesota in a draft night trade – was dealt again Friday, this time heading to Utah Jazz.
Utah picked up Kessler, along with four first-round picks, Patrick Beverley, Malik Beasley, Leandro Bolmaro and Jarred Vanderbilt in exchange for All-Star center Rudy Gobert.
As Gobert heads to Minneapolis to be paired with another All-Star big man in Karl Anthony-Towns, Kessler heads to Salt Lake City with a chance to replace Gobert, who was the 2021 NBA Defensive Player of the Year. Without Gobert, the Jazz have only two other centers on their roster in Hassan Whiteside and former Kansas big man Udoka Azubuike.
Azubuike saw time in less than 20 games last season, and in 65 games, the 33-year-old Whiteside averaged 8.2 points per game for Utah.
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Kessler joins Utah after a year at Auburn that saw him rise to defensive prominence in the world of college basketball. As a Tiger, Kessler had 155 shots, the highest mark in the nation. His defensive prowess at the rim earned him Naismith and Southeastern Conference Defensive Player of the Year awards and propelled him to the first round in last week’s draft.
This year’s draft saw Auburn make history as Kessler was one of two first-round selections from the Plains, marking the first time it had happened in the joint draft era. The other half of those picks, Jabari Smith, became Auburn’s first top-three pick at the time, going No. 3 in Houston.
Smith’s selection, while still a top-three pick, was considered a slide, as he was widely seen as a top-two pick who liked to go to Orlando at No. 1 until draft night.