At 10-3, the Utah Jazz are the surprise team in the NBA at the moment, particularly after most assumed they’d be bad. In fact, many questioned whether their decision to rebuild coincided with the 2023 NBA draft and who would be available at the top of the board. Victor Wembanyama is likely the greatest prospect of the last 20 years, arguably ever. Meanwhile, Scoot Henderson would be a no-brainer number-one pick in any other draft.
However, the Utah Jazz find themselves in an interesting predicament. They are clearly good, but perhaps not good enough to make much noise in the playoffs and not sustainable enough to keep this going long-term.
Should the Utah Jazz go all-in or try and tank?
Yes, Colin Sexton, Lauri Markkanen, and Jared Vanderbilt are all young, but other key players such as Mike Conley Jr., Rudy Gay, Kelly Olynyk, and Jordan Clarkson are all over 30. Then there’s the real possibility that they trade some combination of Conley Jr., Gay, Olynyk, and Clarkson.
That would undermine their early success, and it would probably be an intentional decision on the part of team president Danny Ainge. After all, finishing with one of the three or four worst records would give the team a strong chance at selecting a superstar. At this rate, the sooner they make a trade, the better. Despite racking up 10 wins in their first 13 games, it’s not technically impossible for them to finish near the bottom of the league standings, if that’s the actual goal, of course.
Then again, there are nine teams with four wins or fewer, which might not sound like a big gap this early on, but it could be. All nine of those teams are on pace to win 33 games or fewer. Meanwhile, the Jazz are 30% of the way there. With 69 games remaining, they’d have to go 23–55 the rest of the way to have a shot at a top pick. That’d mean winning just 42% of their remaining games. That’s hard to do, even if they trade away all of their veteran players.
As a result, they may be better off just playing out the string and seeing where things go. If a team offers them a first for any of their veterans, they should take that deal; otherwise, winning might help them with player development. Sexton, Markkanen, and Vanderbilt are still young players who can benefit from being key members of a winning team. That may not add up to the impact of a Wembanyama or a Henderson, but it’s definitely valuable in its own right.
Also, they have plenty of future first-round picks thanks to the Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell trades, so while missing out on those two possible superstars may hurt them in the short term, they’ll have plenty of assets to try and trade up in this draft or in a future draft.
Ultimately, the Utah Jazz’s fast start may have taken them out of contention to land Wembanyama in next year’s draft. Fortunately, they have a solid collection of young players and plenty of assets that they can use to help with their rebuild going forward.