BEN ANDERSON

Utah Jazz Mailbag: Could Jazz Tank Next Season?

Mar 5, 2024, 3:50 PM

Wasatch Academy’s Bhan Buon guards Montverde Academy’s Cooper Flagg...

Wasatch Academy’s Bhan Buon guards Montverde Academy’s Cooper Flagg (Credit: Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)

(Credit: Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY – Welcome to the Utah Jazz mailbag where every week our NBA insiders answer your questions on social media about your favorite team.

Each week we will send out a prompt on KSL Sports ThreadsInstagramX, and Facebook pages asking for the questions you have about the Jazz.

Then, we’ll respond to as many as we can in that week’s mailbag.

Jazz Mailbag: Could Jazz Tank Next Season?

Question: Do you think we tank next year as well and actually try for a Cooper Flagg type prospect? Or are we too far into the rebuild to do that?

Answer: Glen, thanks for the question, and you’re right, the 2025 NBA Draft is projected to have better top-tier talent than the 2024 draft with both Cooper Flagg and Ace Bailey already vying for the top selection.

That is unlike this year where I suspect we won’t know who is going number one, two, or three overall until Adam Silver is standing at the podium.

But, that doesn’t answer your questions.

Truthfully, I don’t think the Jazz are going to enter next season with plans to fully tank. If that had ever been the franchise’s plan they should have done it last year with a chance of landing Victory Wembanyama, or this year when they could have simply handed the ball to Taylor Hendricks, Keyonte George, Brice Sensabaugh, Walker Kessler, and Ochai Agbaji and let the pieces fall where they may.

The fact that they haven’t done that leads me to believe that they think there’s another way to build a title contender without sinking to the bottom of the standings.

Then, assuming they sign Lauri Markkanen to a contract extension this summer, and you see more growth from George, Hendricks, and Kessler, I suspect you’ll see a more competitive next season than you did this year.

However, that’s not to say tanking is completely out of the question.

If Markkanen were to suffer an injury that cost him a significant portion of the season, the Jazz could very easily finish with one of the 10 worst records next season, especially if they unload other veterans this summer.

Or, if the Jazz and Markkanen were unable to come to an agreement on a contract this summer (I find this very unlikely) and the Jazz decided to ship him out for picks, they could be one of the worst teams in the NBA next year.

So it is possible, but I think it’s unlikely.

I should also add that I believe there is value in keeping your roster within striking distance of competing for a title, rather than sinking to the bottom of the standings, and starting a rebuild from complete scratch.

Unless you were land a transformative player like Wembanyama, teams with budding young stars aren’t a great draw for players asking to be traded.

When superstars ask to be traded, they generally don’t want to go to teams that have won only 25 games the previous season. And, while the team trading them doesn’t have to match their wishes, more often than not, it seems those franchises work to send them to rosters that have a chance of winning games sooner rather than later.

So, while the Jazz could reshape their roster to win only 20 or so games next season, that might take them out of the running for the stars who could be asking out their current situation in the next 12-18 months. And I don’t see that happening.

Ultimately, I think it would take work for the Jazz to deconstruct the roster enough to truly tank, and it likely won’t get them closer to a title than where they are today.

For that reason, I don’t expect them to be worse next year than they are this year.

Q: Jason Preston has been hooping with the Stars. What do you know about him and is there any chance he gets an opportunity with the varsity squad?

A: Jason Preston has been playing well since signing with the Stars earlier this season averaging 16.0 points, 9.0 assists, and 18.4 rebounds with shooting splits of 48/41/91.

And, with the Jazz recent slew of injuries, the G League guard has been called up to the Jazz roster, though he didn’t play against the Washington Wizards on Monday.

With that said, I would be surprised if we see Preston get any real run with the Jazz over the next 10 games, though that might change over the final 10 games of the season if the organization is trying to improve its draft standing as much as possible.

The main issue for Preston at the moment is not his talent, but the number of players the Jazz have at his position already, and some of the politics that exist in the NBA when it comes to veteran playing time.

With both Kris Dunn and Talen Horton-Tucker heading into the offseason as free agents, they want the opportunity to prove they should get long-term deals somewhere in the NBA next season.

Additionally, both Jordan Clarkson and Collin Sexton want to see the floor, and that’s to make no mention of the 20-year-old George who needs as much time on the court as possible to develop ahead of next season.

So until the Jazz really shut down the engines this season, I don’t expect to see much of Preston at all on the main roster.

But, considering Preston is on a two-year two-way deal with the Jazz, I’d expect him to suit up for the team during the Summer League this year, and maybe get a chance to play more next season.

Are you on Threads yet? Let’s connect, give us a follow @kslsports.

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Ben Anderson is the Utah Jazz insider for KSL Sports and the co-host of Jake and Ben from 10-12p with Jake Scott on 97.5 The KSL Sports Zone. Find Ben on Twitter at @BensHoops or on Instagram @BensHoops.

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Utah Jazz Mailbag: Could Jazz Tank Next Season?