The Utah Jazz (35-40) are once again playing shorthanded in tonight’s game against the San Antonio Spurs (19-56): Each of Collin Sexton, Jordan Clarkson, and Rudy Gay are listed as OUT, while Lauri Markkanen and Simone Fontecchio are QUESTIONABLE.
While tonight’s game, at least on paper, appears as nothing more than two lottery-bound teams slugging it out in a game likely filled with sloppy basketball, it may hold some significant draft-pick implications for the Jazz. As it stands, the Spurs are the last lower-seeded team Utah will play for the rest of the season. Following tonight, Utah will only face teams with playoff aspirations, which includes the Lakers, Thunder, Celtics, Nets, and Nuggets. Should the Jazz lose tonight, they have a serious opportunity to end the season with the 8th best lottery odds, rather than the 9th. While it may not seem like much, taking the 8th best odds increases Utah’s shot at a top-four pick by about 6 percent and significantly decreases the likelihood Utah falls out of the top-10. At this point in the season, that is likely Utah’s best-case scenario.
Nonetheless, it's difficult to not get excited about Utah’s future. Over the last 15 games, Walker Kessler has shown some incredible stuff, averaging 12.4 points, 11.3 rebounds, and 3.6 blocks while shooting 74% from the field. His rookie counterpart, Ochai Agbaji, has also grown into his new starting role, averaging 12.7 points, 2.6 rebounds, and 1.9 assists on nearly 37% shooting from three over the last 15 games. With Talen Horton-Tucker developing in his new role as a point guard, Lauri Markkanen playing at an All-NBA level, and Collin Sexton returning from injury, the Jazz have serious talent that may grow into something special soon. Getting lucky and adding a top-four pick into the mix could set off the next era of successful Jazz basketball.
When: 6:00 PM MST
Where: AT&T Center, San Antonio, Texas
TV: ATTSN-RM (AT&T Sports Net-Rocky Mountain)