The Utah Jazz find themselves 4 games out of the final playoff spot in the Western Conference with 10 games remaining. With that being said, the Jazz are all but done for the 2010-11 campaign. The question is how should the Jazz play their last 10 games?
The other day as I listened to Powerhouse on KFAN, they were talking about the same topic. Ben Bagley, the host of the show, said something that I agreed with totally. He said that the Jazz should play their remaining games hard and with intensity but still lose. The reason this is such a good approach is because the Jazz, as a professional basketball team, owe it to their supporters to play a full season of basketball, and they should not treat regular season games as if they were the Summer League games. However, as a team that is likely to miss the playoffs anyway, winning games does not serve your team any benefit. In fact, it can only potentially hurt you in the draft lottery. So yes, it would be nice to string together some wins before the season comes to a close, but will it truly be worth it in the long run? Will anybody even remember those “pointless” games in the future?
The benefit of basically playing for nothing with 10 games left, especially with some young talent on the squad, is that you have free time to evaluate your talent for the future. There are players like Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors, and Jeremy Evans who are still question marks, and they can definitely grow from extended playing time, and it could help them tremendously going into next season. Hopefully Coach Corbin understands that, and he stops his love affair with Raja Bell this instant. The fans are fed up with it, and frankly I haven’t heard a logical reason why he continues to play the vet for so many minutes. The sooner the youngsters get their time to shine, the better things will look in the future for this Jazz team.
Now let’s move on to the game against the New Orleans Hornets tonight and how the Jazz should approach it. Obviously, the rivalry that once existed between these two teams because of the point guard battle between Chris Paul and Deron Williams is no longer relevant. However, the Hornets are only 2.5 games up on the Houston Rockets, who are in the 9th spot in the Western Conference. What that means is that the Hornets cannot afford to start dropping games. What that also means is that the Jazz get to play the role of spoiler if they so choose. Although it’s tempting to shake up the Western Conference playoff seedings, I don’t think it’s the smartest thing to do, especially against a team like the Hornets who have not hurt the Jazz historically. I would understand if the Jazz wanted to give it their all to beat a team like the Lakers, which they will have the chance to do twice in their last 10 games, but against a team like the Hornets, they should be playing around with lineups they’ve never experimented with before. They should let Jeremy Evans play a lengthy amount of minutes. They should let Paul Millsap play at the small forward position. Basically, they should have fun. It doesn’t mean that the players should try any less, it just means that the team has the flexibility to test uncharted waters. And if they are lucky, they might find out some useful information that could be of great importance to them down the line. If there is ever a time to be creative with your team, the time is now.
So the Jazz need to take advantage of the opportunity that has been presented to them. To not take advantage would be a waste of a perfectly useful experience. 10 games is plenty of time to get information that can have a drastic impact on the future of this franchise. Be wise, Jazz. Be wise.