Despite being in the hunt for a spot in the 2023 NBA Playoffs, the Utah Jazz find themselves in an NBA purgatory of sorts.
In the first season of their rebuild, they've exceeded expectations even while being marred by injuries. Now, at 35-37, the Jazz are only 0.5 games back from a spot in the Western Conference play-in tournament and just 2.0 games behind the sixth-place Golden State Warriors.
Yet, the Jazz are also in position to pick 11th in the 2023 NBA Draft, while also expecting two more first-round picks later in the first round.
Such a scenario means that while the Jazz are still continuing their rebuild, that they'll also get invaluable playoff experience. From the front office's standpoint, the situation also allows them to better gauge their roster personnel as they prune out what they don't need and look around for what they do.
Jazz rookie Ochai Agbaji figures to a major part of the Jazz's playoff push, as well as the decision-making of the front office.
The 14th overall pick in the 2022 NBA Draft, Agbaji tells HoopsHype's Michael Scotto that Utah's success this season is partially due to a chip they've carried on their shoulders all season.
Considering that behind the process of tanking is the thought process that a team's roster isn't good enough to win games, it shouldn't be hard to figure out why the Jazz's players would take offense to that.
“It’s kind of hard not to pay attention to stuff like that,” Agbaji admits. “I think that gave everyone a chip on their shoulder early on in the season that we’ve kind of carried on. We still have that chip on our shoulder now…”
With the playoffs closer than ever, “every single game means something,” says Agbaji.
“We’re locking in…”