Just a few days after teaming up on Team Giannis for the All-Star game, Lauri Markkanen and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander will be opponents tonight on the exact same court as the Utah Jazz return to action against the Oklahoma City Thunder.
There are a lot of parallels between these two teams. In the grand scope of things, both teams are not ready to compete for an NBA title - and likely are not even ready to compete for a first-round playoff victory - but both teams have promising young pieces, treasure troves of draft picks, and All-Star players enjoying the best season of their respective careers.
Even more significantly, at least for the near future, is that both teams are separated in the Western Conference standings by only half a game. As it currently stands, the Thunder sits at 10th in the West occupying the final spot for the play-in tournament. The Jazz are right behind them and would steal their spot with a win tonight.
The question is, is it really beneficial for either team to win? In an ultra-competitive sport with some of the best athletes in the world, of course, the players are going to want to win every game. That has been evident in the Jazz all year long as they have scrapped their way to being right in the thick of the Playoff race despite trading away their two best players prior to the season starting.
Ultimately though, the Jazz play the Thunder twice in the next four games. Depending on how those two games play out it could have heavy implications on the Jazz’s draft positioning. The moves that the Jazz made prior to the trade deadline and ensuing All-Star break indicate that they are looking to get younger and improve draft positioning.
The Jazz will be without Collin Sexton in tonight’s matchup. the Thunder are very healthy outside of Chet Holmgren who will miss the entirety of the season.
These two teams' matchups in future seasons could be far more meaningful as it appears they are both set up very well for the future. Tonight’s game is meaningful in an entirely different way.