In years past, this might have been a marquee late-season matchup, a game to decide playoff seeding for a legitimate title contender.
The Utah Jazz and the Los Angeles Lakers each have rich postseason traditions. Only twice in the last 30 seasons have the Lakers missed the playoffs. Only five times in the last 30 years have the Jazz missed out. Only once, during the 2004-05 season, did they both go home early.
This year will be the second time in the last three decades.
So when the Los Angeles Lakers and the Utah Jazz get together Monday night at EnergySolutions Arena, the Jazz’s final home game of the season, the only jockeying that can happen is for lottery position.
“This year obviously hasn’t been the best year for any of us, the amount of losses that we experienced,” Jazz guard Trey Burke said of his team after Saturday night’s loss in Denver. “[But] I think the future is bright.”
It might seem even brighter with the NBA draft on the horizon.
Experts have called it one of the most talent-rich player pools in years and the Jazz are locked in for a top pick.
But just how high might that selection be?
Monday will go a long way toward deciding.
Heading into the night, the Jazz have lost 20 of their last 23 games. And they sit on a 24-56 record — the fourth-worst in the NBA, which would mean the fourth-best shot at the top overall pick in the June draft.
Meanwhile the Lakers, plagued by injuries all season, have shut down forward Pau Gasol and are in line for the sixth-best chance at the top pick.
Elsewhere, the Boston Celtics (25-55) are riding a two-game winning streak heading into Monday, when they will take on the Philadelphia 76ers, one of the league’s worst teams.
The Orlando Magic (23-57) are only a game ahead of the Jazz in the lottery race, but face nothing but Eastern Conference playoff teams from now until season’s end.
For players, any talk of tanking is too much. But with each loss, the Jazz increase their odds of a better pick in the draft.
As the fourth-worst team they would have a 37.8 percent chance at a top three pick and an 11.9 percent shot at the No. 1 choice. The fifth-worst record has a 29.1 percent chance at a top-three pick and an 8.8 percent chance at the No. 1 pick.
The odds for third worst record are 46.9 and 15.6 percent.
Lakers at Jazz
P Monday, 7 p.m.TV • ROOT Sports
Lakers at Jazz
P At EnergySolutions Arena
TV • ROOT Sports
Radio • 97.5 FM, 1280 AM
Records • Jazz 24-56; Lakers 25-55
About the Jazz • Have lost 20 of their last 23 games. … Swingman Gordon Hayward averages 16 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists.
About the Lakers • Have shut down forward Pau Gasol for the rest of the season. … Trail the Jazz 2-1 in the season series.