Utah Jazz fans finally have closure on where the franchise is headed going into the 2022-23 season. A lot of questions have been answered, but there’s still one issue that’s on Jazz Nation’s mind.
Does Utah go full tank mode, or should it play for keeps this season with its newly-acquired talent?
If winning takes a back seat to Danny Ainge's front office, then the Jazz can certainly find their way to a bottom-five team. On the other hand, there’s enough talent on this roster to get to 30ish wins, if they so choose.
The pros to cashing it in early increase with a hyped-up 2023 draft class replete with players that have ‘face and the franchise’ talent. Victor Wembanyama, Scoot Henderson, and Nick Smith have the ability to flip the script for Utah and put them on the fast track to relevance.
The counterargument is this: winning games instills confidence for the future. Throwing in the towel doesn’t guarantee a top-five pick in the modern NBA, and who’s to say that Utah won’t land a ‘game-changer’ with picks 6-10?
In order to help with the integrity of the game, the NBA implemented new rules back in 2019 to deter teams from tanking. The franchise that finishes dead last only has a 14% chance of landing the first overall pick in the draft.
What are the odds of getting the No. 1 overall pick for the bottom-10 teams? Here it is:
- Team 1 > 14.0%
- Team 2 > 14.0%
- Team 3 >14.0%
- Team 4 > 12.5%
- Team 5 > 10.5%
- Team 6 > 9.0%
- Team 7 > 7.5%
- Team 8 > 4.5%
- Team 9 > 4.5%
- Team 10 > 4.5%
The bottom-three teams have the same odds of getting the No. 1 pick, but the franchise that finishes last is the only one that’s guaranteed a top-five pick. The teams that finish second, third, fourth, and fifth from the bottom are promised at least a top-six-through-nine pick, respectively.
There’s a big difference in having a top-five pick compared to No. 10. In the history of the NBA, there have been 19 players picked No. 1 overall who have made the Hall of Fame, 10 at pick No. 5, and only two at No. 10.
Another alarming fact is that only two players picked at No. 10 in the last 20 years have made an All-Star game (Paul George and Andrew Bynum). In 2020-21, the 10th from the bottom won 35 games ( Washington Wizards), which is a number the Jazz are capable of winning if they decide to put all their chips in.
Draft position does matter, so it will be interesting to see what approach the Jazz brain trust will take as the season progresses. Ultimately, teams don’t go all in with a tank until at least 20-30 games are played.
I expect Utah to be as competitive as possible to start the season, but the Jazz front office will have discussions behind closed doors on whether to take the foot off the gas as they get a clearer picture of where they're trending.
Answers are just around the corner with the home opener just one month away as Utah will face the Denver Nuggets on October 19.
Follow Patrick on Twitter @pbyrnesNBA.