I started to write a piece on how I feel about Jerry Sloan for the commemoration on Friday, but I couldn't get very far. It sounded cheesy and I couldn't make the homage sound the way I wanted it to. I will just add this piece about Jerry Sloan. In everybody's life there are people or even figures of authority that sort of symbolize that era or time period. Third grade means Mr Groesbeck for me. High school tennis will always mean Ms Goldston or Coach Sperry. And Utah Jazz basketball will always come back to Jerry Sloan. He characterizes much of what we love about the Jazz and what basketball should be. I didn't learn any huge life lessons and my life wasn't changed because I got to watch him coach. But I just love what he did and what he meant to my favorite basketball team for so many years. I'll always respect and love Jerry Sloan for that. There is really just one thing I could think about during his whole press conference and presentation though:
I would guess that the Jazz winning games and moving themselves farther and farther away from the top 3 of this upcoming draft is the main source of consternation for most Jazz fans. Just a guess. But let's discuss the situation and see how concerned we should be.
The Bad News
John Hollinger has these projections for season finishes based off recent performance and margin of victory and strength of schedule and a bunch of other factors:
For those of you paying attention, Hollinger has the Jazz finishing as the 2nd worst Western Conference team behind the Lakers and the 7th worst team in the NBA overall. That would give the Jazz a 15% of picking top 3, a 60% of picking 7th and 25% of picking 8th or 9th. i'm not a huge fan of those odds. You know what else? The Jazz don't own an asset, pick, player or otherwise to trade up and get the player they want in this draft. If they think there is a difference making player in this draft, the lottery is going to be the only vehicle to that player. Derrick Favors and Gordon Hayward aren't going to get the 3rd pick for the 6th pick, for instance. And in my opinion, if the Jazz don't land in the top 4 or 5 of this draft and get a chance to draft the guy(s) they want, the Jazz will trade the pick for an established veteran, a la the Celtics in 2007. Just my opinion.
The Good News
Looking at the Jazz's remaining schedule there are not a lot of wins left. The Jazz are currently 16-31, but I see them finishing only 25-57. The Jazz have lots of games left against good teams, and more importantly, games left against teams that want to win every game they play. If the Jazz win more than 27 games, I will admit that I am very wrong and a horrible person.
Milwaukee Bucks are almost assuredly guaranteed the worst record in the NBA. We won't focus on them anymore. It's crazy. They wanted to win games coming into the season, but they don't have any idea how to build a winning team apparently.
The Lakers are currently tied with the Jazz at 16-31 and for all intents and purposes, have also decided to give up on the season. And judging from the fact that the Sacramento Kings are trying to win games and have been okay with a healthy Rudy Gay and Demarcus Cousins, I think the Lakers are the only real competition for the Jazz in the Western Conference Lossfest.
What the Jazz have going for them is that the Lakers have 20 home games left and the Jazz only have 18. On top of that, the Lakers have 12 games on either TNT, ABC or ESPN in their remaining 35 games and the Jazz have only one such game. I could very well be overstating the pride factor of the Laker players giving it a little more effort during a home game on a Sunday afternoon on ABC, but I think you get the point. We also have to assume that they are going to do something with Pau Gasol, either by trade or fake injury.
I'm not going to predict that the Jazz will have a worse record than the Lakers. It's going to be REALLY close. Let's just say that April 14th game when the Lakers come to Utah might feature starting lineups of Trey Burke, Ian Clark, Gordon Hayward, Rudy Gobert and Enes Kanter vs Kendall Marshall, Nick Young, Wesley Johnson, Jordan Hill, and Robert Sacre. Clark's Projected Record: 24-58
In the East, it gets a little trickier. So many confounding variables and possibilities.
The Knicks, Pistons and Cavs should be disqualified from this discussion because they are currently trying to win. Any of them could become players in the tankfest, but for now they have management that is trying to win games. The Knicks don't even own their own pick and the Pistons and Cavs are just a mess, but I also see them both being players at the trade deadline. Which leaves us with the real competition.
The Celtics only have 16 home games and still have a handful of games against bad teams, but a majority of those games are on the road. The Celtics will almost certainly trade away decent players and their contracts and put out some really bad lineups. The only saving grace for the Jazz could be Rajon Rondo returning to all-star player form, but for now, I think the Celtics are in a much better position than the Jazz to lose games. Clark's Projected Record: 23-59.
The Sixers have 17 home games left, but 11 of them are against teams that have won less than 40% of their games. Lots of home games against the worst of the NBA and teams that won't care to win. However, the Sixers are committed to the 2014 lottery as much as any team in the NBA and will do whatever it takes. I project that they will put out the worst lineup in the NBA after the trade deadline. But some of those games will just be wins. Clark's projected Record: 23-59.
The Magic also play a lot of bad Eastern teams on their remaining schedule but a majority of them will be on the road. Orlando will be even less likely to win if they trade Arron Afflalo at the deadline. I see a lot of potential for some wins from the Magic for the rest of the season, but they also have a 3 game lead on the Jazz. Clark's projected Record: 22-60.
Clark's Lottery Projections
It's hard to get over the fact that the Jazz are just a smidgen less committed to losing games than the other teams mentioned. It is yet to be determined if it will hurt the Jazz in the long run. It's a lottery, after all. I think the Jazz should be commended for losing for long term gain. It's a new approach for them. But looking at this list, it may just be that the Jazz are too new to the game to be as effective.
Clark's Projected Lottery Slot: The Jazz will fight the Lakers for the 5th worst record, but will ultimately fall in 6th. This will give the Jazz a 21.5% chance of getting a top 3 pick (nothing to be ashamed of) and a 44% of picking 6th and a 35% chance of picking 7-9.
Speaking of the trade deadline, we are just a little over 2 weeks away from seeing where each team stands. I know that between now and the deadline, Jazz fans will concoct several ways to hypothetically acquire first round picks. I just don't think there are any more available first round picks, now that Miami traded away Philadelphia's protected 2014 first rounder. Marvin Williams and Richard Jefferson just aren't going to procure the Jazz a first rounder in any year. I feel confident of that.
With all that said, here is your hypothetical trade of the day to kick off trade season. Yay or nay?