UTAH JAZZ

Markkanen: Jazz Players Aren’t Focused On Tanking Games

Feb 27, 2023, 2:50 PM | Updated: 2:51 pm

SALT LAKE CITY – While some fans in Utah are wanting to see the Jazz lose games in hopes of bettering the team’s lottery odds, Lauri Markkanen said that’s not the focus for players on the roster.

The Jazz have come out of the All-Star break winning back-to-back games and are likely to make it three straight when they host the lowly San Antonio Spurs on Tuesday.

The team hasn’t won three consecutive games since November and isn’t playing like a roster that is planning to fade out of the playoff race over the final 20 games of the season.

“I don’t think it’s our job to worry about that,” Markkanen said, “so we focus on the court and obviously we’re competitors and we all want to win.”

The Jazz currently own the eighth-best record in the West and would be one of the top two seeds in the NBA’s play-in tournament if the season ended today.

The play-in tournament pits the seventh and eighth-ranked teams in the Western Conference against one another, with the winner earning the seventh seed in the playoffs.

The loser of that game then hosts the winner of the matchup between the ninth and tenth-ranked teams in the West, with that winner earning the final playoff spot.

If the Jazz were to earn a playoff spot, they would end up with a draft pick no higher than 15th this coming June.

However, with the incredibly tight playoff race in the West, the Jazz could quickly slip in the standings, and dramatically improve their draft pick with just a few losses.

Currently, the Jazz sit just one game back of the sixth-seeded Dallas Mavericks in the West, and what would be the final guaranteed playoff spot in the conference.

They also sit just two games ahead of the 13th-seeded Oklahoma City Thunder. If the Jazz were to finish in sixth in the West, their first-round draft pick would fall to the last teens.

If they were to take a sudden dip in the standings and drop behind the Thunder for the 13th seed, they’d wind up with a draft pick in the 7-10 range, and with it, a chance to win the draft lottery, and end up with a top-four pick.

“We’ve got 20 games [left] and standings are really tied up in the Western Conference so they change every day,” Markkanen said. “We can’t really focus on other teams, how they’re playing, or hoping somebody loses. We’re not really focused on that, we’re trying to take care of business every day.”

According to FiveThirtyEight’s projection models, the Jazz have a 24 percent chance of making the playoffs, the 11th-best odds of Western Conference teams.

The sight also projects that with a final record of 40-42, the Jazz would own the 11th pick in June’s draft.

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Ben Anderson is the Utah Jazz insider for KSL Sports and the co-host of Jake and Ben from 10-12p with Jake Scott on 97.5 The KSL Sports Zone. Find Ben on Twitter at @BensHoops or on Instagram @BensHoops.

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Markkanen: Jazz Players Aren’t Focused On Tanking Games