Jazz management wishes Boston and Orlando would have won a few more games and Golden State would have lost a lot more of them.
Otherwise, this season is playing out pretty much as scripted, with Gordon Hayward’s performance establishing a reasonable market value for himself and Tyrone Corbin’s coaching job justifying a change.
Unless they’re lucky in the lottery, the Jazz (24-52) are unlikely to have a top-three selection in the NBA Draft, and the pick Golden State owes them probably will become No. 23. That’s hardly the dream scenario that once presented itself, but who knows? The Jazz could move up via the lottery and the Warriors could collapse and miss the playoffs — which would require them losing to the Jazz on Sunday. That game creates a dilemma for Jazz fans who want the team to have the worst possible record.
The Jazz’s other issues seemingly are resolving themselves as the season winds down.
This is not about convicting Corbin, as much as recognizing there’s not a compelling case to keep him. I’ve wanted him to succeed and hoped he would make the decision difficult for management, and that almost happened. Corbin made a push in January and February when the Jazz played nearly .500 basketball. But the schedule got tougher, his young players wore down and the season crumbled — as planned.
His bosses will never say Corbin’s future beyond this season was doomed from the start, but everybody sensed a predetermined outcome in the last year of his contract. Corbin may have overcome the difficult circumstances and survived, if the season had ended at the two-thirds mark. The Jazz regressed and a coaching change is inevitable, now that they’re 3-16 since late February.
“It’s been a long year for these guys,” Corbin said after Friday’s win over New Orleans. “They’ve been through a lot.”
Corbin is a good man and he’s handled this situation as graciously as anyone could hope. He’s kept this season from becoming a complete debacle, as could have happened if his players respected him less than they do. But I have to acknowledge the reality of 22 losses by 15-plus points and the team’s defensive struggles in management’s evaluation of him.
The outlook regarding Hayward is less clear, because the Jazz are subject to the market’s demand for him as a restricted free agent. All it would take is one team, coached by one of his biggest advocates — Boston, with former Butler coach Brad Stevens, or Phoenix, with ex-Jazz assistant Jeff Hornacek — to make an outrageous offer. And losing Hayward would be a major setback in the Jazz’s rebuilding project.
They can match any offer, of course. Even with the potential for a team overvaluing Hayward, the Jazz probably will be rewarded for playing the percentages and having this season help determine his worth. Other than his 41-percent shooting, partly explained by a much different role in the offense, Hayward has performed well and proven himself as a key piece of any NBA franchise. He’s a wonderful complementary player, ideally about the No. 3 offensive option.
That would suggest he’s not worth a huge contract for either a struggling team that needs more help than he can provide or a good team that has big money tied up in other players.
Hayward is perfect for the Jazz, at a good price. Maybe I should be more paranoid about the market, but I believe Hayward’s 2013-14 season will have produced a fair outcome for him and the team, and he’ll be back. As for Corbin, I only wish I could say the same thing.