Last week in this column, I talked about the “win now” fan. These fans want to go to all lengths to win a championship. It doesn’t matter if their future teams will have to suffer for the lack of planning past today.
The Denver Broncos are a prime example of this right now. They are mortgaging their future to win while Peyton Manning can still play at a high level. To hell with the consequences, as is the common saying.
On the flip side of the crazed-fan coin, there is the “tank now” fan. These are fans, once their team has no chance to make any noise (which is to say making the playoffs), who want their team to purposely lose the rest of their games.
Now, this is a tactic that will get the team a higher pick in the subsequent draft. This saying is very common from the middle of the season for the NBA and the NFL until the end of the season.
This has crept into the hearts of many Utah Jazz fans as they saw halfway through the season that the team didn’t have a chance to make the playoffs. These fans have taken to Twitter and Facebook to voice their displeasure when the Jazz eke out a win.
I have even heard two local sports radio hosts say it would be in the Jazz’s best interest to lose their remaining games and get a higher pick in the draft. Thankfully, the majority of sports reporters I have read and listened to don’t have that same opinion.
Trey Burke, the Jazz guard who is a candidate for Rookie of the Year, gave his opinion on tanking in an interview earlier this week to the Salt Lake Tribune.
“I think that’s just selfish for a fan,” Burke said.”We play hard, practice hard every single day. Why would we go out there and try to lose? I just think wherever we do land in the lottery, that will be great for us. But to try to tank games and lose games is just absurd.”
I completely agree with Burke. There is absolutely no way the players and the head coach would agree to do that. Their jobs are on the line.
I have had multiple discussions with several friends and colleagues of mine. We have all agreed that this draft, although it is considered a deep draft, doesn’t have a player you can look at and say, “This guy will be a difference-maker. This guy will be a special player. This is a guy we need to tank for.”
A few players look like good prospects, such as Jabari Parker and Andrew Wiggens. But the majority of these experts don’t see a lot of talent that is NBA-ready, meaning they wouldn’t be able to adjust right away and be a starting player. These players have good upside, but they will have to be heavily coached before they can become solid starters.
Rarely do you find that once-in-a-generation player who will be special for several years. The Kobe Bryants, LeBron Jameses and Tim Duncans of the world are few and far between. As are the Aaron Rodgers, the Andrew Lucks and the Tom Bradys. Is it justifiable to tank to get one of these players? I still don’t think so, but I wouldn’t blame a team for it.
But how many players look like a Kevin Durant and end up being a Greg Oden? Durant was the No. 2 pick. Kobe Bryant was the 13th pick and was traded to another team. Aaron Rodgers fell to the 24th overall pick. Tom Brady wasn’t even drafted until the sixth round.
I completely understand where these Jazz fans are coming from. I also long for the glory days. But I have seen some great things from Jazz general manager Dennis Lindsey. He has built a solid foundation of players: Burke, Gordon Hayward, Enes Kanter, Derrick Favors and Alec Burks.
The Jazz are just a year or two away from the playoffs. If they can continue to develop these players and find some good players in the draft, wherever it is they fall, they will be set to succeed in the near future. Patience is a virtue that Lindsey has, and it is something we as fans should learn.