NBA Draft: Grading every first-round pick after rookie year

2022 NBA Draft Class. Photo by Arturo Holmes/Getty Images
2022 NBA Draft Class. Photo by Arturo Holmes/Getty Images /
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NBA Draft
Dec 9, 2022; Salt Lake City, Utah, USA; Utah Jazz center Walker Kessler (24) and Minnesota Timberwolves center Rudy Gobert (27) battle in the first half at Vivint Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Swinger-USA TODAY Sports /

22. Minnesota Timberwolves – Walker Kessler, Auburn

Finally, we come to the draft’s other big steal, Auburn center Walker Kessler. Statistical models pegged Kessler as a top-10 prospect due to his insane defensive impact, but as a big man with little offensive game he looked like a questionable long-term value for teams, and he fell to pick No. 22, where the Minnesota Timberwolves drafted him before sending him to Utah a week later in the Rudy Gobert trade.

Whether you give credit to the Timberwolves or the Jazz, this was a slam-dunk pick. Kessler was an absolute beast as a rim protector as a rookie, averaging 2.3 blocks per game in just 23 minutes. He wasn’t simply planting in the paint and putting his hands up; he moved well in space and could come over from the weakside and truly destroy attacking players.

On offense, he does have a more limited skill set, but he can finish well and cleans up offensive rebounds, of which he collected many. He would go in the Top 10 of a redraft, and many teams would place him even higher after his top-3 Rookie of the Year finish. He looks like a lock to make All-Defense teams in the future, and he isn’t unreasonable as a future Defensive Player of the Year.

Grade: A