So. After Monday night's Rockets debacle (or, as I like to call it, Rockbacle), what do the Jazz have left to play for? They're regressing, fast.
Marvin Williams: "I feel like the last few games, we’re almost back to where we started." http://t.co/6j0vE8nzzL— Aaron Falk (@tribjazz) March 18, 2014
The link in that tweet goes to an Aaron Falk article illustrating how much the Jazz have backtracked. A snippet:
In November, with Williams and rookie point guard Trey Burke still working their way back from injuries, the average margin of defeat for those first 10 losses was 14.3 points.
Over the last 10 - with the Jazz healthy - it's been 15.9.
Utah has seen its offensive production drop from a season-best 105.8 points per 100 possessions in January to 100.6 this month. Defensively, the Jazz are allowing 115.5 points per 100 possessions in March - third worst in the league - and almost seven points worse than they allowed back in November.
This time last year, the Jazz were fighting for their playoff lives, grasping for an eight seed in the West that wouldn't elude them until the last day of the season.
This time around, Utah will play out the final month having been the second team in the NBA to be mathematically eliminated from the postseason.
So, with the team moving in the wrong direction, what do the Jazz have left to do? According to Yahoo's Kelly Dwyer: just lose, baby.
Dwyer named the Jazz one of what he calls the "Dirtiest Dozen" -- NBA teams that have no reason to win another game this season:
The Jazz are another go-to sportswriter pick as a team that was built to lose, but the team truly did the right thing in letting both Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson go during the 2013 offseason, even if both players are enjoying career years with their new teams. Though both forwards are at their peak at the moment, and Utah's replacements (in a way, Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter) haven't exactly blossomed into stars, the franchise wasn't doing itself any favors by retaining the veterans for another go at the bottom of the Western bracket. Entering the salted earth rebuilding fray with a middling first round pick (Trey Burke), the team has sound upcoming cap, draft, and potential coaching prospects as it initiates yet another turnaround.
I'm trying to find a cause to disagree with Dwyer's assertion that the Jazz have no reason to win another game...but I just can't. And that's okay. We've got a good outlook for the future. The sooner that comes, the better.
Of course, that's because the current draft lottery benefits teams who tank. You may or may not have heard about the "wheel" proposal that would alleviate that. The short version: Every team would have a predetermined, different draft position over the next 30 years, so each team would eventually pick in each spot over that time.
Grantland's Zach Lowe, one of the wheel's biggest proponents, wrote about some possible adjustments to that concept that would preserve some of the lottery-like aspects for bad teams:
The wheel isn't going away, despite some initial fears it would allow consensus no. 1 picks to game their NBA destination by entering the draft only when a "glamour" team was up next. Mike Zarren, the Celtics' assistant general manager and the architect of the wheel, has already presented Silver with revised alternatives that would address this issue and several others, per Silver and other sources.
The wheel may not end up looking much like a wheel at all; Zarren has reorganized it so that groups of randomly selected teams might hop through buckets of six picks - say, picks 1-6 in one season, and 25-30 the next season - over a five-year span, instead of the original 30-year system in which teams cycle through each specific pick one by one. Within each bucket, a mini lottery would determine which team gets which pick. The goal is to give bad teams hope of snagging a higher pick more quickly.
Regardless of its final physical form, the wheel would eliminate the link between record and draft position. That could mark a major shift in philosophy, one that would reveal how every part of the NBA's infrastructure interacts to some degree with every other part - contract rules, salary limits, playoff formats, the schedule, and more. Scrapping the lottery is not an isolated change with knowable effects the league can contain in one little silo.
You should definitely read Lowe's whole article; it's an interesting read and highly relevant to the Jazz, given the team's current draft position.
It seems counter-intuitive for American sports fans used to the traditional philosophy of rewarding the worst teams with the best picks, but the bottom line in Lowe's article (and to my thinking as well) is that smart teams will find ways to succeed regardless, and less-than-smart ones will still flounder despite high draft picks. I think the Jazz, overall, are one of the smart teams. So in any case, we'll be fine. And if the wheel makes things otherwise fairer for small markets, I'm all for it.
FanPost time! Got a trio of first-time FanPosters for you this week. First up is EmkayTrey, who introduces himself to the Dunk here, and follows that up with a few thoughts on Coach Ty Corbin and possible replacements for him next season:
My position on 1) had changed. Rookie head coaches have performed well above expectations, and increased my confidence. I want to highlight Steve Clifford and Mike Budenholzer, who seemed to have gotten more out of Big Al and Millsap as the featured player on their respective teams. Comparatively, Corbin is an average coach; and one that seems to act contrary to the goal of the team this season (Develop and Discovery).
That leaves us with requirement 2); who can run the Utah system? I don't know any possibility inside the Jazz family, we may be looking for an outsider. Considering Dennis Lindsey's Spurs connection, I think a Popovich assistant is a possibility. However, the Pop coaching tree was picked clean last season (Mike Budenholzer and Brett Brown), is there anybody left? Another possibility is finding a successful college coach, preferably one who runs the flex offense. In all likelihood, we may have to compromise, and see a new coach who bring in a new identity.
I would expect a coaching change in the 2014 off-season. Dennis Lindsey have made no commitment to Corbin, and in recent history this always signals coaching change. This explain Corbin strategy this year; is this why he is coaching for his own future instead of coaching for the team's future?
Next up: kbazl gives us half a Downbeat of his own as he considers the concept of tanking and the relative progress of the Jazz roster:
Okay. This has been the biggest adjustment for me by far. Never in my life did I think I would actually root for the Jazz to lose. I'm sure a lot of other Jazz fans can relate. Since 97' when I was 7 years old I have watched the Jazz play. And by play I mean win and win a lot. These were the good ole' days when we had the players, and the coach to compete with any team in the league on a nightly basis. We had a winning standard and it was usually met. One day D Will spat on Coach Sloans whiteboard because he didn't like the play and that one event would change the tide for the Jazz franchise. We have been the opposite of Jazz Basketball for the last 3 years. No accountability. No Defense. No direction. We have been horrible and now I finally know how it feels to be a fan of a laughingstock of a team. I, like most Jazz fans, blame most of these downfalls on Corbin but I will get back to that later. There is a light at the end of the tunnel though..... Our new GM has helped us gather a bunch of talented young players who are still learning the game and only getting better by the day. I now realize this is really the only way the Utah Jazz have a change at contending is through the draft. If we are constantly drafting cheap young talent then our roster should always be flexible. That leads me to the almighty tank. I despised the idea of tanking ever since i was introduced to it by GSW a few years ago. I find myself in a new position now and I am ll about the tank. We have a group of young guys that are all very talented in their own right. I honestly think our record doesn't show how good this team is. Anyway, if we can get lucky and somehow throw in another highly talented prospect on our team then we will have a solid foundation to grow on. I still want to see development out of our guys. Ideally I would like each game to come down to the wire and have he Jazz lose by 1 every time. Ideally I would like to see a 9 man rotation of F5 plus Gobert, Evans, Clark and Diante but that is in a perfect world somewhere far away. Tank on Jazz, its the only hope.
Lastly, Saxyjazz considers a comparison between our own Trey Burke and noted (inexplicable) Jazz-killer Kendall Marshall:
So the question is, would you trade Trey for Kendall? Kendall is a better passer and shooter, and is only 22 years old. Kendall is 4 inches taller than Trey and I think he can learn to use his length to be a good defender in a good system. In no way take this to mean that I don't firmly believe in Trey's ability. I love that the Jazz have him, and I think Trey's going to be a great player. But, looking at the facts, it appears that Kendall might be superior in every way. In ten years who do you think is better?
Well done, folks. Thanks for the posts! Dunkers, click through and show your love.
This has been a "season of discovery" for the Jazz, but not all the discoveries have been positive. Salt City Hoops' Laura Thompson goes over a few narratives she didn't expect to have to deal with, including this notable thought:
Another surprising storyline has been Brandon Rush. I got the feeling that Rush was one of the pieces of the Golden State trade that was supposed to be valuable, a potential low-risk, high-reward type of situation. The Jazz have had some success with players who are a year past a knee injury and perhaps undervalued because of the rough year immediately after the injury: Al Jefferson is the first who comes to mind there. Given Rush's 3-and-D abilities, his game could have been a perfect fit for a team that has lacked both the three and defense. Unfortunately, Rush hasn't been able to get comfortable either with his knee or the system and played himself out of the rotation weeks ago. He's shooting 34.1% from the field and 34.8% from three, with a TS% of .438. He's logged 412 minutes on the season, more than Rudy Gobert (388) but fewer than John Lucas III (571).
You can count me among those who thought that Rush would be a useful rotation player for the Jazz -- moreso than either of his ex-Golden State counterparts. Rush was an effective three-and-D player before his injury, but it's clear that he either hasn't fully recovered or he never will. From the Jazz's perspective, it's been roughly a wash, since Richard Jefferson has performed about as well as I hoped Rush would. On the other hand, RJ is much older than Brandon, and won't be a long-term part of the Jazz, the way I thought Rush might if he were effective.
What has surprised you about this Jazz season? What are you thinking about these days regarding the team that you weren't expecting?
One last tidbit, going back to that Zach Lowe article:
7. "Jazz Man"
This is what Utah's announcers, and presumably Utah fans, call members of the team - and even ex-members. As in: "Paul Millsap, a former Jazz man, is having a big game against his old team!" I like it! It has a pleasing pop culture referent, and it's a nice way of making up for the fact that a human player can't be "a Jazz" in the way he could be "a Celtic" or "a Knick." I've seen the Magic toss around "Magic Man" like this, and that hasn't tickled me in the same way. What are the Thunder supposed to do?
Nine out of ten, Zach, but it's actually "Jazzman," all one word. When I used to work for a local publication, we used this term all the time to refer to a singular Jazz player (since it sounds dumb to say "a Jazz"). I'm a big proponent of the word and endorse its usage in all cases.