The Utah Jazz are not a good NBA basketball team.
I can say that without thinking too much about it. They sport the worst record and scoring differential in the league, and as mentioned in the heading, they've started Richard Jefferson in a game in 2013-14. Richard Jefferson still is an NBA player, and a relatively handsomely paid one. But going into a season with a plan of inserting him into the starting lineup, and counting on him to provide something, screams "TANK!" louder than the sound of groans when Josh Smith takes a three in his home arena.
Jefferson has actually played well compared to expectations, too. And they still have one win in thirteen games.
Combine this with a lame duck coach who wants to win games, even if he isn't particularly good at instructing a team so as to coax more wins out of them, and the Jazz have several different tanking scenarios. The year was ostensibly about development, even after taking on $24 million of mostly dead salary to acquire two future draft picks. Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors, Enes Kanter, Alec Burks, and Trey Burke looked to form a solid, young 5-man lineup.
Unfortunately for Ty Corbin and Sixers fans, the core has yet to play more than one game together. Trey Burke returned to the Jazz lineup last night in limited action. The original Core 4 have played, however, and have so far proven that without a real point guard that they will struggle to do anything. And a rookie point guard with little practice time and a coach with little patience will not meet to solve that problem any time soon.
The Sixers have an entire season to try and "catch up" to the Jazz, but they appear to be our stiffest competition in the ping pong sweepstakes.
A Noten on Tony Wroten
Gosh Tony Wroten is fantastic. He makes otherwise unwatchable games watchable, and he makes good games even better for a viewer. He goes hard all the time on both ends. Coaches praise him as one of the keys to MCW's development as an NBA player.
But despite all this, he's shooting 43% from the floor, under 60% from the line, and under 22% from three entering Wednesday night's game. And he shot 3-11 on Wednesday, missing all his threes! He's making the Sixers possibly worse and definitely more watchable. He couldn't be more perfect.
Meanwhile, Up North
The Milwaukee Bucks don't want to tank. Per Herb Kohl, team owner and formerly acting U.S. Senator in Wisconsin, the team needs to compete as part of a civic duty to Milwaukee. It's a noble cause, and a political-/legacy-driven as well. It also hurts that there may still be team-stealing vultures lurking in the Pacific Northwest (yep, that's the nasty undercurrent you smell), and Milwaukee is their next planned dinner.
The Bucks are currently failing to meet the Senator's standards, however. A rash of injuries, highlighting by a bar fight LARRY SANDERS! injured himself in, has left Milwaukee at a not-so-sterling 2-8 record after Wednesday night's games, good for the worst record in the Eastern Conference. Unlike, say, the Sixers, the Bucks will not actively try to get worse. But being left with a shell of a team for an extended period of time made them a semi-interesting character in the fight for draft supremacy.
None of the injuries are crippling, however. And most of the players have returned to the lineup, though not in their previous roles. Luke Ridnour's back and starting. Ersan Ilyasova is easing his way back into the lineup. Only Brandon Knight and Sanders remain out among solid rotation players. Yet the team still doesn't look good.
Unfortunately for Bucks fans, actual tanking will not be an option until their area fate is sealed. Heck, they could even make a move to improve the roster. One thing I can safely say: mediocracy certainly beats not having a team. I don't expect them to be near the Sixers at the end of the season, just because of the team's future.
Weekly Pelicans Pick Update
The Pellies are now 5-6 on the season, currently outside of both the playoffs and the bottom 5, for now. The hope is that both remain the same going forward. Based on Anthony Davis's play and Ryan Anderson's return, that's not anywhere near a given.
Whereas the strength of the Western Conference is a hindrance when fighting for draft position with the Jazz, for the draft pick it helps a lot.
Back Up That Tanking Ranking
And now, here are your top 5 tankers from your home of the original tanking rankings (that's right, I'm going with the tanking ranking inventor/hipster stance here)
They aren't supposed to be tanking, but they surely are playing like teams unprepared to win games.
The trade talk surrounding the team's vets has already begun to stir. They could definitely sell high on Arron Afflalo's early performance.
I can't, in good conscience, put the Sixers ahead of a division foe with a worse record and the same end goal at the current moment. Signing two players hours before a game starts and playing them in said game is a bold, previously undiscovered tanking method.
(anyone else notice that Lorenzo Brown seemingly just had Darius Morris's jersey with his name quickly stitched on?)
The Jordan Crawford point guard experiment sounds about as brazen of an attempt of tanking as any NBA team could possibly muster. Quite unbelievably, it hasn't worked out as seemingly intended. Steez started off the season strong, for a while threatening the 50-40-90 club. That's still not enough to prevent poor Gerald Wallace from lashing out about the team's poor effort after every other game, so I can't imagine what happens when Brandon Bass gets traded for a folding chair and Kelly Olynyk starts at the point.
1. Utah Jazz
The only way the Jazz could better execute a tanking strategy would be to play Andris Biedrins.