Jazz Play-In Scenarios, Lottery Odds

Apr 5, 2023, 3:26 PM | Updated: Apr 6, 2023, 9:33 am

SALT LAKE CITY – The Utah Jazz have just three games remaining in the regular season, but multiple scenarios that could land them in the play-in tournament, or deep into lottery territory.

After Tuesday’s overtime loss to the Los Angeles Lakers, the Jazz sit at 36-43 on the season and in the 12th seed in the West.

Here’s a look at the multiple scenarios that could unfold for the Jazz over the final five days of the regular season.

Jazz Play-In Scenarios

In order for the Jazz to qualify for the play-in tournament in the West, their pathway is clear but narrow.

First, let’s look at their remaining schedule:

Thursdays: vs. Oklahoma City Thunder
Saturday: vs. Denver Nuggets
Sunday: @ Los Angeles Lakers

There is only one way for the Jazz to qualify for the play-in tournament, but unfortunately, they don’t control their own destiny.

The Jazz must win each of their final three games and will need the 10th-seeded Oklahoma City Thunder to lose their final two contests in order to qualify.

Any Jazz loss or any Thunder win eliminates their play-in hopes.

Here’s a look at the Thunder’s remaining schedule.

Thursday: @ Utah Jazz
Sunday: vs. Memphis Grizzlies

But, there’s more.

The Jazz also need the 11th-seeded Dallas Mavericks to win no more than one of their final three games to qualify.

If Dallas wins even two games, they’ll have 39 wins on the season, matching the maximum total number of wins the Jazz could earn before Sunday night, and own the tiebreaker in the season series.

Here’s a look at the Mavericks’ schedule to close the year.

Wednesday: vs. Sacramento Kings
Friday: vs. Chicago Bulls
Sunday: vs. San Antonio Spurs

Now, before you write off the Jazz’s hopes, let’s add some context to these scenarios.

How Likely Are Jazz To Make The Play-In?

In most seasons, the Jazz’s odds of making the play-in tournament with the overall number of things required to qualify would be very low.

But this situation is unique.

First, the Jazz hosting the Thunder on Thursday has the potential to kill two birds with one stone.

Rather than the Jazz needing to win three independent games, and the Thunder to lose two independent games, a win Thursday would lower those numbers to two more wins for the Jazz, and just one more loss for the Thunder.

That’s not a bad shortcut.

And, while this could in the coming days, the Thunder will host a Grizzlies team on Sunday that could still be fighting for playoff seeding on the final day of the season. That leaves a real possibility for the Thunder to lose their final two games of the year.

Additionally, the Mavericks likely aren’t going to be pushing hard to overtake the Thunder in the standings to qualify for the play-in tournament.

Dallas’s first-round pick this season belongs to the New York Knicks if it falls between 11-30 in the draft. If the Mavericks overtake the Thunder in the standings, they’ll have the 11th-worst record in the NBA, and there would be a nearly 91 percent chance their first-round pick would be sent to New York.

That gives the Mavericks incentive to miss the play-in tournament. And, if they’re going to miss the play-in, they may as well lose as many games as possible to improve their draft positioning.

So, while the odds of the Jazz leaping two teams to make the play-in tournament with just three games left to play remain small, there is reason for optimism for the fanbase.

What Are The Jazz Lottery Odds?

With the play-in scenarios laid out, let’s turn our attention to the Jazz’s forecast when it comes to the lottery.

If the Jazz fail to win another game this season, they’ll guarantee themselves no worse than the ninth-best odds of winning the draft lottery.

The team with the ninth-worst record in the NBA has a 20.2 percent chance of moving into the top four picks in the draft. It also has a 50.8 percent chance of drafting ninth overall, and a 29 percent chance of getting lept by at least one team and drafting 10th or lower.

But again, the Jazz have yet to lock in the ninth-worst record in the NBA.

If the Jazz were to overtake the Mavericks or the Thunder in the standings, but still miss the play-in tournament, they’d finish with the 10th-worst record in the NBA, and their odds of winning the lottery would fall.

With the 10th-worst record, the Jazz would have a 13.9 percent chance of jumping into the top four picks in the draft, a 65.9 percent chance of drafting 10th, and a 20.2 percent chance of drafting 11th or lower.

Jazz Could Improve Lottery Odds

The Jazz also have a slim chance of improving their lottery odds over the final five days of the regular season with help from three Eastern Conference teams.

The Indiana Pacers, Washington Wizards, and Orlando Magic all sit at 34-45 on the season, two games back of the Jazz in the standings with three games left to play.

If the Jazz were to lose each of their remaining, and any of those three teams were to win out, the Jazz could move up to eighth or higher in the lottery odds.

Let’s look at the remaining schedules for the Pacers, Wizards, and Magic.

Indiana Pacers Schedule
Wednesday: vs. New York Knicks
Friday: vs. Detroit Pistons
Sunday: @ New York Knicks

On paper, two matchups with the New York Knicks in the final three games may seem difficult, but that all changes on Tuesday night. With the Brooklyn Nets’ loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves, the Knicks now find themselves locked into the fifth seed in the East and have nothing but pride to play for over the final three games of the season.

Washington Wizards Schedule:
Wednesday: @ Atlanta Hawks
Friday: vs. Miami Heat
Sunday: vs. Houston Rockets

The Wizards have been resting most of their roster in an effort to improve their draft stock, and will likely do so for the remainder of the season.

Sunday’s game against the Rockets could determine the Wizards’ final standings if they were to find a way to steal a game against either the Atlanta Hawks or the Miami Heat in the coming days.

Orlando Magic Schedule:
Thursday: vs. Cleveland Cavaliers
Friday: @ Brooklyn Nets
Sunday: @ Miami Heat

The Magic have by far the toughest schedule remaining with two of their final three opponents still fighting for valuable playoff positioning. The Nets currently sit in the sixth seed in the East and will be looking to hold off the seventh-seeded Miami Heat for the final guaranteed playoff spot in the conference.

Again, it remains unlikely that either the Pacers, Wizards, or Magic will win at least two games before the end of the season, much less three with so little to play for.

But, if either of the three teams were to win at least two games, and the Jazz were to lose out, there’s hope the Jazz could improve their lottery odds.

Here’s a look at how the lottery odds are impacted by seeding.

If one of the Pacers, Wizards, or Magic overtook the Jazz, their odds of climbing into the top four picks would climb to 26.3 percent, their odds of drafting eighth would sit at 34.5 percent, and their odds of drafting ninth or lower would be at 39.2 percent.

If two of the Pacers, Wizards, or Magic overtook the Jazz, their odds of climbing into the top four picks would climb to 31.9 percent, their odds of drafting seventh would sit at 19.7, and their odds of drafting eighth or lower would be at 48.3 percent.

If all three of the Pacers, Wizards, and Magic overtook the Jazz, their odds of climbing into the top four picks would climb to 37.2 percent, their odds of drafting sixth would sit at 8.6 percent, and their odds of drafting seventh or lower would sit at 54 percent.

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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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Jazz Play-In Scenarios, Lottery Odds