It's the whole reason for that long, ugly stretch of games to end the 2011-12 season, a tanking process that actually lasted longer than Williams' nine games with the Warriors. The reward: the Warriors kept their lottery pick, which was one piece of a very successful offseason.
Suffice it to say that Jazz fans were much, much unhappy about that.
Tonight is the first time that the Warriors and the draft pick that Jazz fans felt was taken from them will visit Salt Lake City. To try to reconcile our differences and move on, I contacted Amar of SB Nation's Utah Jazz site SLC Dunk for insight on the team and how much that draft pick has affected their season.
1. Let's get this out of the way: the Warriors tanked hard - and some might even say dishonorably - to hold on to the #7 pick in the 2012 Draft. It ended up being Harrison Barnes. Looking back now with how the Jazz have performed this season, how significant do you think that development was to the Jazz moving forward?
AllThatAmar: Many Jazz fans were upset with how the Warriors finished the season, not out of some out and out altruism, but because we wanted your pick. It's not that we deserved it, but it was straight up greediness. If we did get your pick we could have moved it with some other pieces to pick Damian Lillard (Weber State is a small school in Utah). Instead the Warriors, who at times were ahead of the Jazz in the standings (I believe even after the All-Star break) ended up losing a lot of games. And the Jazz scrapped their way to the playoffs.
There are a number of theories about why it is necessary for the Jazz to always make the playoffs, even if they have no shot to advance. I'm not going to go into those here, but getting to the playoffs is deemed necessary because the Jazz franchise is determined not to build a 'losing culture' in this small market. During the playoff push our young coach actually was forced to playing his younger players more minutes (Derrick Favors, Gordon Hayward, Alec Burks, heck, even DeMarre Carroll started), and we started to win games. The Kool aid is that these are "meaningful minutes". As a result, these minutes where the game was on the line back when the games actually mattered *should* have helped develop the younger core more than playing 30 minutes a night on a team perpetually out of games by halftime.
The jury is still out, but we did make the playoffs and were spanked by the San Antonio Spurs. That's a type of education that should help us down the line -- you know -- if our coach was still playing the younger guys during those spankings. We got spanked playing Jamaal Tinsley and Josh Howard big minutes in that series.
2. You will almost surely get the Warriors' pick in this year's draft, barring a catastrophic collapse from the Warriors over the remaining bulk of the season (especially assuming that Bogut returns at SOME point). I'll assume every Warriors loss is therefore valuable to Jazz fans. But how excited are you about this upcoming draft?
ATA: I'll be honest; I don't actually follow the NCAA much and don't start pre-draft scouting until the season is over. So I really have no clue how deep this draft class is. The Jazz are only really good at drafting in the lottery and in the second round. We're notoriously horrible at picking in the middle to late first round. I'm thinking that the pick we get from you this year will come from exactly this area. So that is discouraging to me.
However, a pick is a pick -- and I've made no secret of my absolute love of one player in the NCAA this year. That said, I don't even know if he's going to declare for the draft at all after all the craziness that's happened to him this year. In my mind the pass first Myck Kabongo (playing for Texas, original from Canada, well, originally from Africa) would solve a lot of problems for the Jazz because all three of our PGs and one of our SGs who subs in at PG are free agents this year. If Kabongo falls deep into the first and the Warriors pick helps us get him I won't complain.
That said, our team will probably use that pick on an unskilled, project bigman from a European nation that isn't known for their basketball players.
3. The Jazz have one of the top offenses in the league this season with the 8th highest ORtg in the league, which is about where they ranked at the end of last season. What do you think has made the Jazz so successful offensively over the past two seasons and how do you think an opponent can stop them?
ATA: This is an easy one to answer -- the key to the Jazz offense isn't that we're particularly talented, gifted, or well run. It's just that we get extra chances to score because of our offensive rebounding prowess. The Jazz are #2 in the league in total offensive rebounds this year and #4 in ORB%. Last season we were #3 and #2 respectively.
Utah Jazz statistics as of 12/26/12 (via Basketball-Reference.com).
Our bigs are big and active on the offensive glass and crash the boards with wild abandon. Synergy also seems to agree on this point as the Jazz quartet of Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap, Derrick Favors, and Enes Kanter all get in on the act and perform well on second chance points. This season the Jazz also added three point makers (a rare thing in Utah) to the team, so that's given us a more diverse look on offense; however, I still think it comes down to offensive rebounds. The teams that get a high percentage of defensive rebounds have dismantled the Jazz this year. The Warriors (#4 in DRB%) can be such a team.
4. You mentioned in a post a week ago that the Jazz have been good at defending shooting guards and laid out the statistical evidence for your claim, which might not bode particularly well for Klay Thompson. Is there any pattern in how the Jazz defend that might account for that success against shooting guards?
ATA: Ha, this is a point I will be completely okay retreating from. In the last decade (or so) shooting guards have absolutely torched the Jazz. So much so that their overall average was higher than their season average. This year things are different, because after the 20 or so games we had played to that point, we've kept starting shooting guards AT their average. It's not that we're good at defending them, it's that we're no longer horrible.
I don't know if there's anything different this season, besides playing and starting Randy Foye for half the game and crossing our fingers. Foye isn't a defensive juggernaut. I don't think we have one at the wing spots. That said, Gordon Hayward, DeMarre Carrol, and occasionally, Alec Burks can be thrown at SGs to keep them off balance and give them different looks. That seems to be what's happening this year. Which is a step up from using ancient Raja Bell.
Klay Thompson, beyond being someone I felt the Jazz would have picked at #12 if available two drafts ago, is almost the prototype SG to torch us. He's long, he can get to the rim, he can move without the ball, and it's a knock down shooter when given space. It's been the Monta Ellis, Ray Allen, Kevin Martin types who have strong shooting strokes who kill us -- and less likely it's the pure athletes that kill us. While Klay has athletic ability, at this stage I'd rank him more as a shooter / scorer, and not a driver / slasher. I wouldn't worry about him as a Warriors supporter. I do worry about him as a Jazz fan.
5. The Warriors come into this game having lost 2 of 3 after a historically successful 7-game road trip. After that Lakers loss, Warriors need a win to keep the good vibes going. But what do you think bodes well for the Jazz tonight against the Warriors?
ATA: The Warriors really impressed me with their road warrior play of late. The Jazz are usually solid at home, but I'm not feeling so hot about this game. The Warriors don't force a lot of turn overs, don't block of lot of shots, and in turn, let the other team get to the line. If the Jazz are active, allowed to be physical (home game), and run -- it could be a closer game than a game where the #5 team in the West is going up against the #9 team in the West. It should be fun. Or foul filled.
For more on the Utah Jazz, check out SBN's SLC Dunk.