Editor’s note: This is part one of a two-part version of the Utah Jazz ATI. You can check out part two by clicking here.
Disclaimer: These questions were written prior to the Boston game on March 28 but due to technical issues, we weren’t able to post until today. If some of the questions seem behind the times (i.e. question #2) that is the reason and are entirely my fault and not the fault of the respondents.
This is our second collaboration with Dog and Deuce from the Dog & Deuce Podcast. You can catch them by going to their website or subscribing to them on iTunes. If you don’t already, I highly recommend it.
On March 19, the Salt Lake Tribune’s Kurt Kragthorpe wrote an article about the Jazz and whether or not they should keep winning. Seems a strange topic of discussion, but when you consider the Jazz could go from two potential lottery picks to zero 1st round picks in this year’s draft, the issue becomes more relevant. Would you prefer that the Jazz keep winning and make the playoffs, even if it potentially means no first round picks this year or would you prefer they miss the playoffs and get at least one pick and maybe two?
Matt – Man, two more lottery picks sounds like an NBA dream come true doesn’t it? But unless the Jazz hit the big time lottery, neither of those picks would be lower than 8th. Still sound good? I’ve looked quite a bit at the players coming out of college that are projecting to go in the lottery and it is a lot of big men – where the Jazz are stacked. I don’t see how any of the big men projected to go in the late lottery are better than what we currently have, so the best option in my opinion if play for the playoffs. The experience the team will gain will be invaluable; even if it is a 5 game and out against Oklahoma City – though the Jazz are looking more like a team that could get a 5 or 6 seed. The Jazz can’t control what will happen with the Golden State pick and they shouldn’t play basketball just to get a lottery pick. I say play for the playoffs, hope for something better than the 8 seed and go learn what the playoffs are all about.
Steven – Currently Golden State stands in the bottom 7 as the 6th worst record in the NBA. Meaning if the season ended today, Utah does not get Golden State’s 1st round pick. Additionally, if the season were to end today, the Jazz make the playoffs and lose their first round pick. For small market teams like the Jazz, the draft is crucial for building for the future, however, making the playoffs is the most imperative objective to achieve for a couple reasons. First, making the playoffs ensures interest for future years. Jazz fans experienced almost three decades of perennial playoff attendance, it is a market that expects to be contenders every year. The risk of losing the market’s interest becomes a possibility for a team that is not in playoff contention. This is exemplified through markets like Sacramento and New Orleans who have very few fans in the stands on a routine basis. Second, the Jazz are a young team as is; making the playoffs gives our young and up-and-coming players experience that they otherwise could not get. The playoffs are an experience that is otherwise unable to be duplicated. If the Jazz want to make a push for the future, they will need players who know how to handle high pressure situations that the playoffs offer. Finally, making the playoffs generates interest for free agency and trades. If the Jazz do make the playoffs it allows them the opportunity to showcase themselves for potential free agent signings and off-season trades. While other teams have begun the off-season, the Jazz would remain one of 16 teams to continue playing ball. Other teams and players have the opportunity to see talent they may want to try and acquire in the future, and for free agents choosing between a team that’s not competitive, and the Jazz, the playoffs may give them that added bonus they need to secure the signing.
Dog – I always subscribe to the philosophy that you play to win. Now that the Jazz are back in the playoff race I think they have to do everything they can to secure their ticket to the postseason. Even if it means getting an 8th spot and getting swept in the first round by Oklahoma City, I think that gives more to build on next year than a late lottery pick that will have to be developed anyway. Plus for all the criticism he has received, Kevin O’Connor has had some success in finding quality players in the second round.
Deuce – Tough questions, I believe that you have to try and make the playoffs. Especially for the Jazz being a small market team, the extra money that two or more playoff games brings in at the turnstiles and concession stands in important to the vitality of the franchise. Some of the recent picks we have gotten in the 2nd round have been good ones i.e. Paul Millsap. The draft can be tricky and there are no guarantees even in the lottery. I believe for the psyche of the young players already on the Jazz whom many consider to be the future of this franchise, making the playoffs is more important than the possibility of having any number of lottery picks.
Speaking of the rest of the season, they Jazz have 16 games remaining, split evenly at home and on the road. They have road games at Boston, LA Clippers, San Antonio, Houston, and Memphis and home games against San Antonio, Dallas, and Orlando. What would you expect the Jazz’s record to be over these final 1 games, starting with Sacramento, and where will this place the Jazz in the playoff pecking order for the West?
Matt – Wins: Sacramento, @Portland, Phoenix, Golden State, @New Orleans, @Portland, Orlando, Phoenix, and Portland. Losses: @LA Clippers, @San Antonio, San Antonio, @Houston, @Memphis, and Dallas. That stands at 9-7 over the final 16. That would give the Jazz a final record of 36-30. The Lakers only need 2 to reach 36, the Clippers need 8, Dallas needs 7, and Memphis, Utah, Denver, and Houston all need 9 to get there. I would imagine 36 wins could easily get the Jazz to the 5th seed and a match up against the Clippers.
Steven – The real issue for the Jazz will be whether or not they can maintain their current success on the road. The Jazz have won 3 of their last 4 on the road, however, only one of those victories came against a playoff team with the Lakers. The one loss comes from another playoff team in the Hawks, in quadruple overtime. Looking at the road games remaining, the Jazz have 5 and possibly 6 road games against possible playoff teams. I think the Jazz will need to pick up at least 2, and probably 3 to ensure their spot. The home schedule looks almost mirrored to the road, and look for marquee games to be against Phoenix, Houston, LA Clippers, and Mavericks who are all within a game and a half of each other. If the Jazz go 11-5 in the final 16, as I would predict them to right now, I’d say they have a great opportunity to secure a 5-6 seed.
Dog – Including the Boston game that they lost, I think they Jazz go 9-7 in the remaining games, giving them a season record of 36-30. I think that will be good enough to secure a playoff spot, but if they get anything less than 8 or 9 wins in this final stretch I don’t see them getting into the postseason. The west, as usual, is an insanely tight race; any team in the top 12 has a legitimate chance of making the playoffs. There is no room to struggle.
Deuce – The games are split evenly on the road and since I’m getting this in late for which I apologize I have the benefit of knowing that the Jazz lost to the Kings last night. Since they have lost two in a row they need to go 11-5 or 10-6 to make the playoffs. Neither of those W/L records would seem to be unattainable given that half the games are at ESA, but then again they lost to the Kings at ESA last night, so what do I really know?