Jazz are Undeniably Tanking

**Initial disclaimer - I am not saying 100% that going for a low draft pick is a bad strategy. I am saying the jazz have prioritized getting good draft picks over developing the ones we already have.

I just listened to the Andy and Clark podcast and I am perplexed by the number of people asserting that what the Jazz organization is doing is completely different from tanking. All the arguments seemed to be centered around the idea that tanking is only when teams 1) tell their players to lose or 2) limit the minutes of talented players ("injuries" etc). The first probably rarely (if ever) happens explicitly, although it is probable that some teams don't emphasize winning with their players (resulting in a more casual attitude/effort). In either case, I agree that the Jazz would never do this and rightfully so as it creates a toxic team culture. I also doubt the Jazz would actively pursue the second strategy, although many of us like to joke about the "stealth tanking" Corbin can accomplish with his talent evaluation and bizarre rotations.

Where I completely disagree with most is that tanking can be done in the offseason. To me tanking includes any moves that make the team worse in the immediate or near future without major benefit other than losses and ping pong balls. The counter argument offered by most for the current Jazz season is that development is the priority, and the probable lotto odds are just a perk. I think if you honestly analyze the moves made by the Jazz and other teams in the FA market, you realize that the Jazz went so far that they are intentionally sacrificing development for improved lottery chances.

I would give the Jazz very low grades for developing players. The main type of guys that seemed to blossom here are hard/driven workers who will succeed regardless of what the team does (Millsap). It is encouraging that all of the young guys seem like hard workers and are being proactive in doing things like P3 on their own. It was embarrassing that players like Favors and Burks had to specifically ask for skills coaching (what do the Jazz pay their coaches for?), but hopefully the Jazz have turned a corner in this regard as Jerry and Karl have been brought back to provide more support. I think the minutes for the young talent on this team has been so pathetic that people have become too focused on that one aspect of development. I definitely think minutes are critical for developing NBA skills, but not as an isolated variable.

I believe NBA minutes are crucial for development because it is a very difficult environment to replicate. It is a fast-paced, team sport with lots of moving parts and pressure. Like many things in life, the participants all have interdependent roles. If one person fails to perform their assignment, it likely will impede or completely prevent the task of another. How well can a PG learn to run a PNR if the picker keeps moving too early? How well does an offense flow if the opposing team packs the paint because they don't respect the shooters? Can you adequately guard your man if the opposing PG blows by his man every possession? This list could go on, but my main point is that I fear the Jazz are heading towards a clustercuss of a season and this may make it very hard for players to learn and grow among the chaos.

I would argue that for the upcoming season that Jazz can reliably expect 3 players to be above average NBA contributors (20+ minutes). Outside of GTime, Favors, and Kanter (who I all think are proven to some extent at this point), Burks and Rush should bring this list to 5. Rush is obviously an uncertainty coming off an injury, and Burks only has gotten sporadic minutes in varying roles so if he is ready for this season it will be in spite of what the Jazz have done for him so far. Real optimists would like to add Evans and some of our draft picks to this list, but I'm not even sure they would honestly say they expect them to produce (atleast initially) in extended roles.

Outside of the young guys the Jazz have assembled complete garbage. Even without injury it is going to be really hard to create functional/balanced lineups that will be capable of executing offensive/defensive systems. Any injuries to the core guys could completely derail the season for all the players if it gets really ugly. Maybe I'm just being a bit of a pessimist here, but I think another lost season is a not unrealistic possibility.

I think it is clear that the Jazz FO is actively trying to be bad (how I define tanking) by looking at some of the available deals this offseason. There were lots of 2 year deals, which have no real impact on extending Jazz draft picks (even a couple 3 year days would probably be manageable). I really believe that if the Jazz had acquired Sap/DMC/Ridnour for similar deals (or even at a 20% premium) the young guys could be BETTER developed with some moderately functional lineups. Throwing a high quantity of garbage minutes at players does not guarantee development - lots of talent languishes on bad organizations (Sac).

I also still think one of the primary reasons for the GSW trade was tanking. The price we paid for those 2 draft picks is probably double what any other team has paid for picks in their expected range. You can not convince me a better deal could not be had - even if the team had to wait until the trade deadline. I think the Jazz just jumped all over it because it helps guarantee an abysmal season.

All comments are the opinion of the commenter and not necessarily that of SLC Dunk or SB Nation.