The Utah Jazz currently have the fourth-worst record in the NBA. The Salt Lake sports media has been telling fans all season that this not bad enough. They say the Jazz need to lose more. All twenty-four wins that the Jazz have accumulated this season with two games left to play have been met with apocalyptic fervor by the local sports talk hosts and newspaper columnists (yes, newspapers are still clinging on to life). You see, the local talking heads have been telling suffering Jazz fans all season that it is in the best interest of the Jazz to lose as many games as possible, even go as far as “tanking” or losing on purpose to secure a top three pick in this June’s NBA Draft. There is, however, a significant problem with this message. The NBA does not simply assign draft pick order by a teams’ record like the NFL does. The team with the worst record in the NBA is not guaranteed the number one pick. The team with the worst record is only guaranteed a 25% chance of winning the Draft Lottery and being awarded the number one pick. That is huge difference and a difference that the Salt Lake sports media has glossed over all season.
Hey, but who can blame them. The Salt Lake sports media is not used to the Jazz wallowing through losing seasons. The Jazz fan base and sports media are probably the most spoiled market in the NBA that has never won a title. Under Stockton and Malone and then Deron Williams and Carlos Boozer the Jazz hardly ever missed the playoffs and this whole draft lottery thing was just something that other teams had to deal with. The Jazz were above that kind of thing. No need to rely on a draft lottery, until now.
Times have changed for the Jazz. The playoffs are nowhere in sight and the Draft Lottery is very much the focus of the Jazz future. But instead of trying to sell losses to the fans as a way of getting a higher draft pick maybe the those reporting on the Jazz should acknowledge what the NBA Lottery really is. It is a lottery, and even having the worst record and a 25% chance of winning does not ensure a number one pick. In fact from 1985, the first year of the lottery, through last season, only 4 of 29 with the worst record or tied for the worst record have won the lottery. If you are wondering that is a 13.8% of the teams with the worst record. Those are not good odds. Sekou Smith of NBA.com wrote a great post last week on why “Lottery Madness is Fools Gold.” His post reveals that only the San Antonio Spurs have won titles with players that they drafted with the number one overall pick. David Robinson in 1987 and Tim Duncan in 1997. If the Jazz really want to win a title someday winning the NBA Lottery may not be the way to go.
Teams with the second worst records have also won 4 of 29 times as well as teams with the fifth worst record. The third worst record is where the chances really go up…7 of 29 for a whopping 24%. So maybe the Jazz do need to lose their last two games to try to grab that spot. Where they sit right now with the fourth worst record only 2 of 29 teams have won the lottery (6.9%).
Losing games should never be accepted by the local media covering a professional team. Telling fans that they should accept losing is even worse. The 29 year history of the NBA Draft Lottery does not make those in the Salt Lake sports media clamoring for the Jazz to lose more games look like pragmatic realists. It makes them look like degenerate gamblers that always think that the odds are finally going to be in their favor.
The Salt Lake sports media should want this team of young players to learn how to win. They should be selling the fans on the importance of wins and re-establishing the winning culture that thrived in the Jazz organization for over two decades. To tell fans that all of their sufferings of this season will all soon be over so long as the Jazz get a top pick in this year’s NBA Draft is disingenuous, misguided and is going to come back and bite them when the Jazz continue to struggle next season. You can only sell losing for so long.
Posted by Hatch